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GPS (Global Positioning System) is a global, satellite-based system for determining precise location on Earth. It is one of several systems more correctly referred to by the more generic term GNSS, although since GPS is the US-run system, "GPS" is the more common term in the US.


When used with compatible phone apps and services, and with the user's permission, it can also transmit location information to those apps and services. This is called LBS. For example, a location-enabled map can show you exactly where you are at the moment, where the nearest Thai restaurant is, and how to get there, all without requiring manual entry of your current location.

See: LBS

In a phone, this will also allow operators to immediately receive your location when you call the emergency number (911 or 112).

Most phones with "GPS" in fact use A-GPS technology. The "A" stands for assisted, and means that the phone relies on the network for help in determining location quickly and accurately. Although the phone does receive GPS signals directly from the satellites, it can't determine actual location quickly nor accurately without help from the cell network.

See: A-GPS

There are several other global positioning satellite networks, including the European Galileo and Russian GLONASS. They work similarly to GPS, but are separate. Phones and other devices can use multiple networks simultaneously to improve location accuracy and speed.

Last updated Jun 21, 2024 by Rich Brome

Editor in Chief Rich became fascinated with cell phones in 1999, creating mobile web sites for phones with tiny black-and-white displays and obsessing over new phone models. Realizing a need for better info about phones, he started Phone Scoop in 2001, and has been helming the site ever since. Rich has spent two decades researching and covering every detail of the phone industry, traveling the world to tour factories, interview CEOs, and get every last spec and photo Phone Scoop readers have come to expect. As an industry veteran, Rich is a respected voice on phone technology of the past, present, and future.

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