Android and the Red Compass Calibration Problem

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After you update Android on your phone (or whatever) you should recalibrate the compass so it, literally, knows which end is up. This involves flipping the phone around along all axes so it can figure things out. After a while, the little on-screen compass thing turns green and lets you know it’s calibrated.

Except when it turns red and never turns green, which is what happened to me.

I looked around in forums and it turns out this is reasonably common. I fixed it in the same way other people have fixed it, which was:

  1. Uninstall any compass-related applications. This includes fancy on-screen compasses as well as apps like GPS Test Plus, which is a great app for helping you test out your GPS reception/settings but also has an on-screen compass component.
  2. Power cycle the phone. Turn it all the way off and back on again.
  3. Sit in the middle of the room. Well, you don’t have to sit smack in the middle of the room, just make sure you’re not sitting next to speakers, or an MRI machine, or something that’s going to create magnetic interference.
  4. Start the calibration. Settings -> Location and Security -> Calibrate Compass.
  5. Rotate the phone slowly. Don’t fling it around really fast. Take about two seconds to complete a full rotation of the phone in any direction. Flip it around all different ways. It should take around a minute to turn green.
  6. If it doesn’t turn green, or if it turns red, go look and make double sure you don’t have any compass apps installed. I didn’t even think about GPS Test Plus until I remembered there was one screen in there that did, in fact, deal with the compass. It may be a game, it may be a utility… whatever. The compass app thing was, I think, the real key for me, though it does sound like some folks are moving the phone around too fast as well.
  7. Reinstall your app(s) after calibration. Done and done.

This was really annoying for a few hours while I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the compass calibrator kept turning red and never completing. I followed the above steps (which is an amalgamation of things that worked for different people) and had no issues. Hopefully it’ll help you, too.