GPS: Significant improvements in iPhone 14 Pro and Apple Watch Ultra

Owners of iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro Max or – from Friday – Apple Watch Ultra can look forward to a useful improvement in navigation functions: the position finding of all three devices should be better in the future. The reason: For the first time both iPhones and Apple Watch support the GPS frequency L5. This should make it easier to get a signal, especially in densely built-up areas.

In the future, the devices can use both the legacy frequency L1 and the newer L5. Their signal is stronger and therefore also reaches the receiver where L1 has to fit. Apple even called inner cities with high-rise buildings when presenting the devices – first tests have to show how this works in practice. Apple calls its new navigation chip a “precision dual-frequency GPS”. In addition to L1 and L5, Galileo, GLONASS, QZSS and BeiDou can also be received.

However, the L5 technology is not yet complete. There were a total of 17 satellites in the summer, but more are to be added. According to the US government, they should offer the most accurate position signal to date outside of military technology. The project has now been running for twelve years. L5 is said to be “rugged enough for life-critical applications” and will also be used for aircraft approach to landing once completed. By 2027, a total of 24 L5 satellites should have been launched. The available bandwidth is also larger compared to L1.

As praiseworthy as the new technology is, Apple still seems to be working on its implementation. iOS 16.1 beta testers report that iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max devices currently have no GPS reception or only poor GPS reception under the previous operating system. Whether this has anything to do with L5 is unclear. If you need GPS, you should therefore switch back to iOS 16.0.1. iOS 16.1 is expected to be the first major iOS 16 update in a few weeks.

The Apple Watch Ultra with L5 GPS will be released next Friday. It is marketed by Apple explicitly for extreme sports applications. New wayfinding functions in watchOS 9 also benefit from the improved GPS reception of Apple’s new top computer watch.

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