Does the iPhone SE 2020 dedicated GPS antenna work without Wi-Fi or cell tower connection?

Does the iPhone SE 2020 dedicated GPS antenna work without Wi-Fi or cell tower connection? I often paddle a mile or more off the Maine coast in areas that do not have many cell towers. A handheld GPS/Chartplotter is expensive and I would rather spend the money on a new iPhone but not if using it for navigation will eat up data. I use the navigation apps Cal Topo, Navionics, GPS Tracks, and All Trails. Any thoughts?

I just put my wife’s in airplane mode and the GPS still tracked me in Google maps. GPS is independent of any data/cellular connection, you just have to have the maps downloaded in advance

Yes. The SE’s GPS calculations will include data received over WiFi or cellular to speed up initial calculations but do not require that info to provide a fix. And the SE doesn’t just use GPS, but also uses GLONASS (Russian) and Galileo (European) satellites as well.

Hi Andy & Mike,

Thanks, just ordered an iPhone SE 2020. If you use the iPhone secured to the kayak deck for easy navigation, how did you attach the iPhone? If you used a holder, which one did you use? Some holders have metal spring clips that get destroyed in saltwater. My plan is to attach a holder to the kayak deck and secure the iPhone to the holder. I would not rely on the holder alone and don’t want to just strap the iPhone to the deck. Any thought on a holder?

I leave my phone in a ziploc, inside a pocket on my pfd.

If I was going to mount it on my canoe, I would want something watetproof and that could tether the phone to me. Not sure what the best solution for that is.

I have my iPhone on a Rogue Fishing tether in my PFD. In that they claim it’s IP68 rated, I don’t put it in a case, but I also understand that I may be rolling the dice here a bit. I’m not doing a lot of heavy duty navigating, it’s there more for exercise tracking and photography. I also have an Apple Watch that has a map and tracking app installed that is good for quick reference.

Wear it. It is useless in an emergency on the deck. People have been killed by keeping their communication devices on the deck and getting upset. Last one in Maine was pretty recent. 3 killed just off Corea.

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Hard to wear it if you are actively using it for navigation

not at all. A lanyard. Have you actually tried it? I use mine for maps but actually have a paper chart and compass for backup. There is a compass on the phone too.It never hurts to have two especially off the coast of Maine . A mile out is not a trivial distance with our currents

i have. it would be like keeping your phone in your lap while driving vs putting the phone in a mount so it is always in view.

if you are only periodically checking, then sure, a lanyard is fine. if you need to check it frequently, it will just be a disruption to paddling

Is a cell phone going to work a mile offshore anyway?

Thanks Kay, I wear my Standard Horizon VHF/GPS radio for that reason, and thanks to the comments here, I now plan to put the iPhone in a PDF pocket too and make better use of the deck compass.

I use an Optrix hard case for my ancient iPhone 6. This was the top choice for me because it only opens from the top which results in a very small surface needed to be sealed. Most open like a book. I’ve paddled in saltwater with it for years and while the hinges are showing a bit of rust, everything still works perfectly. Being an old SCUBA diver, I can tell you that any o-ring sealed surface must be properly cleaned and maintained if you want it to stay watertight.

I tether the phone to my pfd and tuck it down inside the the front against my chest so I can pull it out for quick photos.

You may want to look into a UGO waterproof pouch. They have great attachment points - although I agree that if you don’t have it on you, you don’t have it - and can carry a few other essentials besides your phone. Maybe attach it to your spray skirt? Although I see potential complications with re-entry, that would put it on your lap for navigation purposes and still keep it attached to you. I clip my Garmin InReach to the bottom buckle closure on my pfd and it has never impeded a re-entry.

Being an old school chick, I put paper charts on the deck and use electronics only as tracking/back-up/SOS use. Charts are wonderful! Not only do they give you the big picture, they are science and art all in one!


Thanks KayakerBee, Thanks to advice here I have gone back to keeping the phone in a Lifeproof case tucked in a PDF pocket; too many problems mounting it on the deck, and besides having a GPS on the deck isn’t necessary. Besides navigation, the apps track the route for later reference. I too am old school and keep a photocopy of the chart on the sprayskirt. This summer I plan to mark the heading bearings on the chart and use the deck compass to stay on track.