The iPhone 5 Reviewby Anand Lal Shimpi, Brian Klug & Vivek Gowri on October 16, 2012 11:33 AM EST
GNSS: Subtle Improvements
Section by Brian Klug
Like the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4 CDMA before it, Apple has gone with the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) leveraging both GPS and Russian GLONASS which lives entirely on the Qualcomm baseband. In the case of the iPhone 4S and 4 CDMA, that was onboard MDM6610 and MDM6600 respectively, both of which implemented Qualcomm’s gpsOneGen 8 with GLONASS tier. Going to on-baseband GNSS is really the way of the future, and partially the reason why so many of the WLAN, BT, and FM combos don’t include any GNSS themselves (those partners know it as well). In this scheme GNSS simply uses a dedicated port on the transceiver for downconversion, additional filtering (on RTR8600), and then processing on the baseband. The advantage of doing it all here is that often it eliminates the need for another dedicated antenna for GNSS, and also all of the assist and seed information traditionally needed to speed up getting a GPS fix already exists basically for free on the baseband. We’re talking about both a basic location seed, precision clock data, in addition to ephemeris. In effect with all this already existing on the baseband, every GPS start is like a hot start.
There was a considerable bump in both tracking accuracy and time to an assisted GPS fix from the iPhone 4 which used a monolithic GPS receiver to the 4 CDMA and 4S MDM66x0 solution. I made a video last time showing just how dramatic that difference is even in filtered applications like Maps.app. GLONASS isn’t used all the time, but rather when GPS SNR is either low or the accuracy of the resulting fix is poor, or during initial lock.
With MDM9615 now being the baseband inside iPhone 5, not a whole lot changes when it comes to GNSS. MDM9615 implements gpsOneGen 8A instead of just 8, and I dug around to figure out what all has changed in this version. In version 8A Qualcomm has lowered power consumption and increased LTE coexistence with GPS and GLONASS, but otherwise functionality remains the same. MDM9x25 will bring about gpsOneGen 8B with GLONASS, but there aren’t any details about what changes in that particular bump.
I spent a lot of time playing with the iPhone 5 GNSS to make sure there aren’t any issues, and although iOS doesn’t expose direct NMEA data, things look to be implemented perfectly. Getting good location data is now even more important given Apple’s first party turn by turn maps solution. Thankfully fix times are fast, and getting a good fix even indoors with just a roof between you and clear sky is still totally possible.