Like we said before in our video overview of the top 15 features of new iPhones, and as noted on Apple’s own official technical specifications for iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, the latest handsets from Cupertino have picked up global support for Galileo satellites named after the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, as well as the QZSS constellation in Japan only.
Multi-constellation positioning allows Apple’s latest smartphones to offer more accurate positioning, making it harder for users to get lost wherever they might happen to be.
A global satellite navigation system created in Europe, the Galileo constellation is run by two ground operations centres in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich, Germany and Fucino, Italy.
As of August 2017, there were fifteen operational satellites in orbit and three for testing. Available globally, Galileo is projected to have 30 operational satellites in orbit by 2020.
Launched last year, the constellation is managed by the European Union through the European Space Agency and the European GNSS Agency, headquartered in Prague in the Czech Republic.
Combining GPS, GLONASS and Galileo signals lets new iPhones increase signal availability in urban environments where buildings obstruct the sky and limit the number of satellites visible.
In terms of accuracy, Galileo’s signal structure is said to provide better resistance to multipath, which helps iPhone users maintain their position fix when navigating in cities.
BOTTOM LINE: With built-in support for Galileo satellites, location services on iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X can better serve you in different parts of the world.
Select competing devices support Galileo as well, including Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Note 8 as well as models from BQ, Huawei, Meizu and Sony. In other words, vendors accounting for around half of the world’s smartphone market now offer Galileo-enabled navigation.
Like older models, new iPhones also support:
- The Global Positioning System (GPS) owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Air Force, with fifteen operational satellites in orbit.
- Japan’s version of the GPS system, called Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS). iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 sold in Japan have supported QZSS. It’s now available across iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X models, but the service is Japan-only.
- Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) run by the Russian Federal Space Agency provides an alternative to the GPS and is the second navigational system in operation with global coverage and of comparable precision. GLONASS relies on 24 satellites in orbit. iPhone 4s was Apple’s first phone to support GLONASS.
In conclusion, support for Galileo and QZSS gives owners of the latest Apple smartphones a piece of mind knowing they’ll enjoy more reliable location services, especially if one of those positioning systems gets (un)intentionally disabled or degraded by their operators.