January 16, 2019

GPS on the iPhone

Apple's iPhone used four different location functionalities: Assisted GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS.

These are used to identify your exact location and used by any application that uses the Location settings.

These are the exact same services that were on the iPhone 6s Plus. The iPhone XS Max doesn't add any new location services or functionality.

The location support hasn't changed much over the years. I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about each of the location services on the iPhone.

Blue Satellite

What is Assisted GPS?

Assisted GPS makes location tracking faster and uses other sources to correctly identify the location of the phone. For example, if you're in a shopping mall, you may not have a strong GPS signal. Assisted GPS will use Cell Tower distance as well as ISP information to pinpoint your exact location.

Assisted GPS functionality is actually a hidden cost that your cellular provider will charge you. On Verizon, this will appear as "Time & Location" under System Services. On other providers, they may show it as "data access." To cut down on the amount of "data access" simply disable location services to Apps where you don't need them.

Assisted GPS is a FCC requirement to make cell phone location data available for 911 operators.

There are 31 active GPS satellites in orbit.

What is GLONASS

GLONASS is an acronym for Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema which translates to Global Navigation Satellite System. It's a GPS system developed by the Russian Federation in the 1980s.

It's an alternative Global tracking system to help with precision location tracking. By itself, it's not a strong as the standard GPS system. However, combined with the standard GPS system, it helps the accuracy of the location coverage.

There are 24 active satellites in orbit.

What is Galileo

Galileo was created so that the European Union wouldn't have to depend on the United States GPS system. Initially, the civilian signal was stronger than the GPS. In 2000, that changed when President Clinton changed the GPS civilian access to be the same as the military access.

Galileo has 18 operational satellites available all around the world.

There are currently 18 satellites in orbit.

What is QZSS?

The Quasi-Zenith Satellite System is a project of the Japanese government for the development of a four-satellite regional time transfer system. Its primary focus area is in the Asia-Oceania region with a focus of Japan.

There are 4 active satellites in orbit.

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