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Apple Expands iPhone 4S GPS Capabilities with GLONASS Support

Apple yesterday quietly updated its iPhone 4S tech specs page to note that the device offers not only Assisted GPS but also GLONASS, the Russian version of GPS.


Just two weeks ago, Russia launched the last of 24 satellites required for global location coverage, setting the stage to restore GLONASS to its full operational status that had been lost amid economic turmoil in the country during the late 1990s.

Far from being a Russia-only service, some current global positioning hardware and software is capable of utilizing both GPS and GLONASS satellite information to provide more accurate geolocation information with faster acquisition times. We have reached out to Apple for comment on whether the iPhone 4S can in fact take advantage of satellites from both systems on a worldwide basis, as it is unclear from the tech specs whether this is the case, but have yet to receive a response.

Notably, only the tech specs page on the U.S. site has been updated to mention GLONASS capabilities, with the corresponding page in other iPhone 4S launch countries still listing only Assisted GPS as the device's satellite location service.

(Thanks, Jesse Perry!)

Related roundup: iPhone 6

Top Rated Comments

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41 months ago
Presumably this is because Russia has proposed a 25% import duty on devices that support GPS but not GLONASS. Most GPS chip suppliers have updated to support GLONASS, so Apple just needs to turn it on.
Rating: 14 Votes
41 months ago

We didn't need an expanded GPS capabilities, we need an redesign.


"We" mean "you" right?
Rating: 7 Votes
41 months ago

We didn't need an expanded GPS capabilities, we need an redesign.


Oh shut up! I am tired of hearing this crap. Really. The design that iPhone 4 gave us is ahead of it's time. So was the unibody Macbook Pro. They continue to use that design with internal spec bumps... so why can't the iPhone do this as well. I dunno about you, but I just don't see any company making smartphones as beautiful as the iPhone 4/4S with almost entirely glass externals and external antenna design. Antennagate aside, as long as you don't bridge that corner of the phone, iPhone 4 had the best reception of any iPhone.. and the 4S is even better while eliminating Antennagate!
Rating: 6 Votes
41 months ago
It's nice to have two systems to rely on for position data. It's always been a bit worrying that GPS is the only one; what if the US government decided to be paranoid and shut it down, or make it less accurate?

Now TWO countries have to be stupid to rob us from location data.
Rating: 5 Votes
41 months ago
I wander if it will support Gallilio when that comes online?
Rating: 4 Votes
41 months ago

We didn't need an expanded GPS capabilities, we need an redesign.


Come on, the current design is beautiful :) I'm serious. It is like the MacBook or the iMac, would you expect a radical redesign every year. Stay on topic. I'm sure there are a bunch of other threads where you can express your disappointment. What do you think about GLONASS support? Do you have to use your GPS in cities like New York, Los Angeles, etc. with high rises? I think a lot of people are going to be happy with the updated support. I actually have to get my foot out of my mouth as I wasn't expecting GLONASS support in the iPhone for a while. I thought it would lead to more battery consumption and there was no clamor for it. On the other hand I would understand that Russia would put pressure on Apple to support it if Apple wants to sell phones in Russia.
Rating: 3 Votes
41 months ago

The iPhone4S GPS did work for me last weekend in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The problem is that it doesn't have any way that I know of to pre-cache the maps, and for some reason I can't "install" an off-line version and take up 5-10 GB of local memory (Or use a bluetooth type of SSD hard drive with 256GB of Google Earth, Yahoo Maps, or any other map). So I was just a blue dot in a field of gray.


Use MotionX GPS and pre-cache the terrain maps. It's a wonderful app and I use it all the time while biking in the Rockies off the network.

I think it would be great to have an alternative location service. I use my iPhone4 to track all my routes which I then use to update the OpenCycleMap with mountain bike trails in the Rockies. Anything that may aid accuracy is okay in my book.
Rating: 2 Votes
41 months ago

GPS is already down to half a cm using DGPS.


Do you know of any consumer product with this precision? I doubt it. I think those precisions only get accomplished with sophisticated professional equipment. GLONASS or Galileo support more than precision it also gives extra satellites to lock to, particularly useful around high rise buildings, dense forests, and other obstacles that don't allow for a full view of the sky.
Rating: 2 Votes
41 months ago

Do you know of any consumer product with this precision? I doubt it. I think those precisions only get accomplished with sophisticated professional equipment. GLONASS or Galileo support more than precision it also gives extra satellites to lock to, particularly useful around high rise buildings, dense forests, and other obstacles that don't allow for a full view of the sky.


DGPS = Differential GPS.
The idea is that while a GPS might have a hard time pinpointing you relative to arbitrary lat/long lines on a map, a GPS device is dead accurate relative to another identical GPS. They would both suffer from the exact same inaccuracy.

So the difference between two GPS devices is very very small. And a few CM isn't an exaggeration if you can see a few satellites.

Now, I don't know what the difference is between two iPhone level GPS devices. But I know of companies that rely on Garmin GPS devices to have a DGPS accuracy to within an inch. Pretty slick, actually :)

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Yes, but don't you need an additional stationary receiver? The DGPS's I used in the early 2000s for geophysics work required a receiver on a tripod, and another one with a big bulb antenna that you carried on a backpack.

Not sure that's what iPhone users have in mind:D


Not quite a "Receiver", but the right idea. You do need two GPS units, because what DGPS does is tell you the difference between two GPS units.

So a GPS unit may only be accurate to within feet when pointed at a lat/long map, it can be accurate to within inches if you're trying to find a similar GPS device.


Edit: The similar example I can think of is having two identical altimeters that use barometric pressure. No matter how much you dial them in and try and "correct" for conditions, they won't be too accurate when trying to measure the exact height of a mountain. However, get two identical altimeters and place one at the top of the mountain, and you can tell when you are exactly 100 feet below that mountain. All by themselves, they aren't accurate, but the distance between them will be extremely accurate.
Rating: 2 Votes
41 months ago

i actually prefer the current design to the ip5 mock-ups + larger display+ edge-edge display and those crappy tapered corners

Just wish they bumped up the RAM


Why what is it your currently trying to do with your 4S that you can't manage to do with the 512Mb???
Rating: 2 Votes

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