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JohnPacheco Level 1 Level 1

Everyone, for a long time I have been wanting to move to the iPhone, however due to the lack of Satellite and WAAS based GPS, i have not.  So I am wondering... Oh, please, oh please, oh please, does the iPhone 5 have Satellite based GPS?


If not, does anyone know why Apple will not add this feature to their radios.



Solved by MeplatMasher on Sep 13, 2012 9:10 PM Solved
As rominggnome showed, the iPhone does have a GPS receiver, and has since the iPhone 3G.  And as Rudegar pointed out, the iPhone also has A-GPS capability, which lets the GPS receiver determine its current location much faster than normal.  Without A-GPS, the GPS receiver has to wait -- sometimes multiple minutes -- before it can determine its location, because it doesn't know where the satellites are.  A-GPS allows the phone to download satellite almanac data over the cellular network, so the GPS receiver can immediately know where all the satellites are.  A-GPS is not necessary, however, for GPS operation -- even if you have no cellular service, you can still use the GPS receiver in the iPhone.  I have done this many times, so I have no idea why your friends have had trouble.  I recommend the MotionX GPS app, and it works really well out in the woods.  You can even download offline map data. But what the iPhone does NOT have is WAAS capability.  The GPS receiver works by measuring how long it takes for the radio signals to propagate between the satellites and the receiver.  The propagation time varies based on the current density of the atmosphere between each satellite and the receiver.  Because of the density flucuations, a standard GPS receiver can only get a fix that is accurate to about 10 meters.  However, some geostationary satellites transmit atmospheric density information that lets GPS receivers compensate for current atmospheric conditions, and this enables accuracies in the neighborhood of about 1 meter.  Garmin has had WAAS capable receivers for years, as have other hand-held and aviation-based GPS receivers, so it is a bit surprising that Apple has not incorporated WAAS into their GPS radio -- especially since WAAS density data can be downloaded via the Internet, eliminating the need for increased radio weight.  I and others have submitted requests for a WAAS capable GPS receiver in the iPhone, but Apple has not delivered.  Perhaps it is because WAAS is only available in North America.  However, according to the specs for the iPhone 4S and 5, it now supports GLONASS, which provides near-WAAS accuracy when combined with standard GPS, and is available worldwide.  At least that is the next best thing to WAAS. Now, the CoreLocation service on the iPhone combines 3 completely separate technologies: GPS, cell tower triangulation, and Wifi-based location.  I don't know the algorithm they use, but I presume that they use whatever service is currently providing the most accurate location information.  Note that cell tower triangulation has nothing to do with GPS.
Reply by roaminggnome on Sep 12, 2012 1:56 PM Helpful
The spec page will show that each model since iphone 3g has a GPS reciever. You can see the iphone 4 and 4s spec currently: "Cellular and WirelessGSM model: GSM/EDGEUMTS/HSPA+DC-HSDPACDMA model: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. BLTE3Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n; 802.11n on2.4GHz and 5GHz)Bluetooth 4.0GPS and GLONASSGSM/EDGEUMTS/HSPA-CDMA EV-DO Rev. A2-Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n; 802.11n on2.4GHz)Bluetooth 4.0GPS and GLONASSGSM model: GSM/EDGEUMTS/HSPA-CDMA model: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A-Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n (802.11n on2.4 GHz)Bluetooth 2.1 + EDRGPS"
Reply by Badunit on Sep 13, 2012 7:54 AM Helpful
roaminggnome wrote: Where did you get the idea that it does not have this feature?   Here is my theory: On occassion the Maps app will show my "location" with a static black dot instead of a blue one that moves with me. I assume this happens when it doesn't have a lock on my position. On my 3G with no sim card there is no cell tower triangulation to fill in when a GPS solution has not been established. Being out of cell tower range would be a similar situation. That might lead someone to think the GPS requires the cell towers, which it does not.

All replies

  • roaminggnome Level 10 Level 10



    Iphones have had GPS, which is satellite based, since the iphone 3g.

  • Cyronader Level 1 Level 1



    They never have. The GPS system on all past and current iphones have all been celluar and wifi based. The OP was asking if the new IPhone 5 has a real true built in GPS receiver like the ones used on TOM TOMs, Garmin, and magelian. None of which require a subscriotion, use of a costly data plan, or need to be near a wifi hot spot.


    And to answer his question. I don't know but god....I really hope it does have a built in SAT based gps.

  • roaminggnome Level 10 Level 10

    "They never have. The GPS system on all past and current iphones have all been celluar and wifi based. "


    This is NOT true.  Why do you think this?  All iphones since iphone 3g have indeed had true gps.

  • JohnPacheco Level 1 Level 1

    @raminggnome.  No, the iPhone has what is called AGPS (assistated GPS), and GLONAS, which is a Russian based GPS similar to AGPS, althought it can also use Russian GPS satellites.  However the iPhone cannot use use GPS for coordinates or navigation if you do not have a cellular or Wifi signal.

  • roaminggnome Level 10 Level 10

    You are completely wrong about this.


    Why do you think this?


    All iphones since iphone 3g have indeed had true gps.


    I have used my GPS without wi-fi or cell service many times.


    You can look this up for yourself. 


    Why do you think that it does not have true GPS?

    Assited GOS only mean that it will use the cell tower or wi-fi router to get a faster fix.  All iphones since iphone 3g have a true gps reciever.

  • JohnPacheco Level 1 Level 1

    @raminggnome.  I am not stating that you are wrong, however I am speaking from experience.  I do a lot of hiking into mountains and I have been with people with iPhones that cannot triangulate once we get out of cell tower range.  I have both a Garmin GPS and an Android phone and with both of those units I am able to navigate using built in maps or apps with pre-loaded maps.  Actually on the Android handset, I go into airplane mode and only turn on GPS so that I can navigate.


    can you point me to any literature on the web that would state what you are claiming?

  • roaminggnome Level 10 Level 10

    I hike as well and have no issue with getting a GPS fix outside of cell range and wi-fi.  It does need a clear view of the sky.


    I use preloaded maps while hiking and mountain biking regularly.




  • roaminggnome Level 10 Level 10

    The spec page will show that each model since iphone 3g has a GPS reciever.


    You can see the iphone 4 and 4s spec currently:



    Cellular and Wireless

    • GSM model: GSM/EDGE
    • UMTS/HSPA+
    • DC-HSDPA
    • CDMA model: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B
    • LTE3
    • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n; 802.11n on
      2.4GHz and 5GHz)
    • Bluetooth 4.0
    • GPS and GLONASS
    • GSM/EDGE
    • -
    • CDMA EV-DO Rev. A2

    • -
    • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n; 802.11n on
    • Bluetooth 4.0
    • GPS and GLONASS
    • GSM model: GSM/EDGE
    • -
    • CDMA model: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A

    • -
    • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n (802.11n on
      2.4 GHz)
    • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
    • GPS"
  • JohnPacheco Level 1 Level 1

    True, however a cellular based GPS unit is still a GPS receiver.  As long as it can interprete positioning by triangulatting from 3 or more sources, satellite or cellular or WAAS system it's a GPS signal.  I guess I will have to do more research, but I have never found a statement by Apple or any legit blogs, that the iPhone is able to receive the timed signals from GPS satellites.  Like I said, that would be awesome.


    I do appreciate your help with this. 

  • Cyronader Level 1 Level 1

    Hey you know what. I was totaly wrong. My bad. I was thinking about the google map app which does not have any preloaded maps. That's why you needed to a data signal to download them. There are other apps you can download which come with maps pre-downloaded so you don't need a cellular/wifi connection. Thanks for fact checking me on this

  • JohnPacheco Level 1 Level 1

    So last night I took my daughters 4S phone, opened maps and made sure that all the tiles form my street were donwloaded.  i then disabled the radio on the phone, but made sure that location was still on.  I also did the same thing with my android device.  I went outside and I was not able to track my location with the iPhone, but the Android was able to tell me my location.  Do you know if there is a way to find out for sure if the iPhone inded has this option.  I would hate to move to an iPhone only to find out that it does not do this feature which is important to me.

  • Badunit Level 6 Level 6

    By "disabled the radio", do you mean put it into airplane mode, which disables the GPS.



    Some info on the iPhone 4 and 4S:


    The iPhone 4 previously used a BCM4750 single chip GPS receiver, and shared the 2.4 GHz WiFi antenna as shown many times in diagrams. We reported with the CDMA iPhone 4 that Qualcomm’s GPS inside MDM6600 was being used in place of some discrete solution, and showed a video demonstrating its improved GPS fix. I suspected at the time that the CDMA iPhone 4 might be using GLONASS from MDM6600 (in fact, the MDM6600 amss actually flashed onto the CDMA iPhone 4 includes many GLONASS references), but never was able to concretely confirm it was actually being used.

    MDM6610 inside the 4S inherits the same Qualcomm GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) Gen8 support, namely GPS and its Russian equivalent, GLONASS. The two can be used in conjunction at the same time and deliver a more reliable 3D fix onboad MDM6610, which is what the 4S does indeed appear to be using. GPS and GLONASS are functionally very similar, and combined support for GPS and GLONASS at the same time is something most modern receivers do now. There are even receivers which support the EU’s standard, Galileo, though it isn’t completed yet. This time around, Apple is being direct about its inclusion of GLONASS. The GPS inside MDM6610 fully supports standalone mode, and assisted mode from UMTS, GSM, OMA, and gpsOneXTRA.


  • Badunit Level 6 Level 6

    The GPS on my old iPhone 3G with no SIM card in it (and therefore no cell data) tracks me just fine when I'm out walking around (i.e., no wifi signal either). 

  • roaminggnome Level 10 Level 10

    There is no doubt at all that ALL iphones beginning with the iphone 3g have a true gps reciever.  None.  There is no controversy or grey area.


    It absolutely, 100%, without a shodow of a doubt, has a true gps reciever.


    Not sure why you do not believe it.


    Iphone owners have been using GPS with no cell or wi-fi service for years.  I do it regularly in National Parks and BLM land.


    Where did you get the idea that it does not have this feature? 

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