More accurate and efficient GPS chips coming to 2018 smartphones

While bezel-less displays and dual-camera systems are visual upgrades that are easy to get excited about, an upcoming GPS chip from Broadcom will soon allow future smartphones to provide more accurate mapping features and less battery drain when using services like Google Maps, Waze, etc. Late last week, the IEEE Spectrum announced that this new chip is finally ready for mass-production for consumer-facing products and that we should be able to see this latest advancement in GPS technology make its way to smartphones set to be released in 2018.

More accurate turn-by-turn directions and the ability to have a little extra battery at the end of the day undoubtedly sounds quite nice, but the extent of the upgrades that have been made here is seriously impressive. Current GPS chips in smartphones provide a location accuracy within 5-meters (or 500-centimeters) of your actual location, but with Broadcom's latest and greatest (the BCM47755), that will be dwindled down to just 30-centimeters. Along with the improved accuracy, the new GPS chip should also perform better in cities and other urban locations where there are a lot of tall buildings and other concrete structures.

As for the upgraded power-efficiency, the BCM47755 will use 50% less power than what GPS chips in current smartphones require. This has been achieved thanks to moving the chipset to a 28-nanometer design, using a brand-new radio architecture, and by taking advantage of a dual-core sensor hub that was designed specifically for the BCM47755.

In addition to the advancements made with the chip itself, this will also be the first GPS system in smartphones that can connect to L5 satellites that are capable of kicking out a more accurate signal that's less prone to distortion than the older L1 satellites. The BCM47755 will connect to both L1 and L5 systems to provide the best possible results, and although there have been devices capable of using L5 in the past, this will be the first time that the technology will make its way to consumer products.

Although we don't know exactly which handsets will come outfitted with the BCM47755 GPS chip, it has been confirmed that smartphones slated for release in 2018 will be outfitted with this new technology. A new GPS chipset might not be as exciting as a phone display with hardly any bezels to speak of, but if the BCM47755 works the way it's being advertised, we're going to be in for a real treat once phones actually start shipping with this new silicon.

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • That's nice and all. I'll believe it when I see it.
  • The 30 cm accuracy has been available for years, but was restricted to military and engineering use. They must have opened the restrictions. I wish I had the extra accuracy back when I used a clip-on GPS on a Palm to do line of sight surveys for building to building wireless.
  • Really? I'm pretty sure agricultural guidance systems (think farm equipment with automated planting/harvest systems) have had GPS equipment with sub-30cm accuracy for quite a while. Does that fall under the engineering umbrella?
  • Eahinrichsen - agricultural would fall under the general engineering umbrella. It's probably easier to just group automotive and handheld GPS to the lower accuracy. I'm sure there are lots of uses I don't know about.
  • Line of sight isn't always sufficient, beware of fresnel zone deflections.
  • Goldfndr - the surveys I did were just to establish possibility, to rule out trees and buildings and hills being in the way. I'd locate the destination building, document positions and elevations, then use a Nikon with a telephoto lens to grab a reference shot. We had about 120 remote offices at the time and were looking into it because AT&T was raking us over the coals for line charges. The buildings where it would work were relatively few, but the ones that we did install were fairly successful. The major exception was a clinic I rejected, but the wireless company said it was doable with the antenna on a 40 foot mast. They unfortunately put the guy lines only half way up, and the thing would oscillate like a fishing pole in a hurricane. They finally fixed it after I sent our boss a video of the antenna dancing, lol.
  • Good news.
    I might wait a year to get my next phone - I do a lot of traveling - this would really be nice.
  • This sounds great! GPS is such a drain, and anything that can reduce the drain a bit and be more accurate sounds good to me.
  • "A new GPS chipset might not be as exciting as a phone display with hardly any bezels to speak of" I must get excited about the wrong things. Give me a more accurate, less power hungry chip over less bezels all day long. I know I can have both, but better internals are MUCH more interesting to me.
  • It's good to see that there are people who look more at the internals rather than the externals of the phone.
  • This gps accuracy upgrade would also make augmented reality more feasible...especially for ads etc..or mapping apps of any kind.
  • Same.
  • Ditto!
  • I wholeheartedly concur!
  • As a person who spends a lot of time in unfamiliar cities and uses navigation while walking all the time, I couldn't agree more. Having to worry less about the amount of battery I'll use on the walk to and from the restaurant would be a very welcome change of pace.
  • 8g????? I just bought this damn 5g phone!!!!!arrrgh!!!!
  • Hmmm... Maybe I didn't ask google correctly... I tried to see if vehicle in dash gps navigation was more accurate than cell phones... But no luck. Worth noting that in urban areas where there is WiFi, your mobile gps can use WiFi together with gps to improve accuracy. Here is a more technical article on the latest, dual frequency, low power technology.
  • I used to use just the GPS without WiFi enhancement, but the battery on the new phone is solid enough to leave the high accuracy mode on without thinking about it. Whether or not vehicle GPS is more accurate than your phone depends. I suspect a 2017 smartphone would be more accurate than a 5 year old Magellan or in-dash unit. I had a situation in New York where the iPhone we were using could not maintain GPS lock. The car unit I have is a dedicated GPS box that runs windows and had a 20 channel receiver, and IT had no problem maintaining lock, but our destination was not in the car unit's database. I was going in circles, then made a turn on a red light with a police car right behind me. Unfortunately, right turn on a red light is a felony in NYC, which seems kind of harsh considering other states allow it everywhere that a sign is not posted saying you can't. They let me off after the explanation, and the stay there turned out well. A girl took me out that night after her mother gave her a few hundred dollar bills to have fun with, so I forgot about the incident pretty quickly ;)
  • If I leave my location/GPS on my phone turned on the whole time, does it use up battery? Or does it only use up battery if I use an app that requires location?
  • Yes it uses more battery constantly updating your location.
  • No, Google/Android is smarter than that. Unless you're using one or more apps that use fine location services, the GPS will be off. It is a software switch, after all. To test this, download an app specifically designed to display GPS statistics (I use SatStat from F-Droid), and see what your TTFF (time to first fix) is. If it's more than 2 seconds, the GPS wasn't in use. On my phone, I get an icon on the status bar when GPS is trying to get a fix or has a fix. Even though I have GPS enabled right now, no icon is present, and the GPS is not in use. My guess is that jimlloyd has an app constantly in RAM that's requesting fine location and he just isn't aware of it.
  • Perfect, now I'll at least have a full battery when the drone strike hits.
  • This will be good to stretch out my Ingress sessions. Better efficiency is definitely better.
  • Simply just time to switch from the ageing GPS to the much better Galileo...!
  • Why not both? This new chip handles 5 different technologies (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDu, and Japan's; only the first three are global though),