|Don's Home Technology Telecom Location & Mapping|
There are three ways smart phones and tablets can determine location.
The antennas on a cell tower are always arranged in a triangle. Each of the three antenna arrays covers a 120° sector with the tower at it's focus, and these sectors, by convention, are referred to as alpha, beta, and gamma - α, β, γ.
a cell tower can tell from which of the three antenna arrays it is receiving a signal.
Using cell tower triangulation (3 towers), it is possible to determine a phone location to within an area of "about" 3/4 square mile.
Google Maps on phones doesn't use triangulation but the signal from one tower and doesn't seem to distinguish which sector it's in.
In driving around my suburban neighborhood with an android tablet with GPS turned off this produced circles on the map with a radius of from about 1/2 mile to 1 mile and as I passed a Wi-Fi hotspot it knew about it would get within 100 ft.
In suburban areas towers are usually spaced every couple of miles.
Map of towers in my neighborhood.