What is a GPS Phone?

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  • Written By: K. Schurman
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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A GPS phone, short for a global positioning system telephone, is a type of cellular telephone that includes GPS capabilities. A cell phone that also serves as a GPS phone typically includes a GPS receiver inside the phone. With the correct software and cell phone service provider, this type of phone can provide a variety of features, such as turn-by-turn directions or information on nearby businesses.

Global positioning systems make use of a GPS receiver to communicate with any one of 24 GPS satellites orbiting the earth. For the GPS receiver to pinpoint its location, it must determine its position in relation to at least three GPS satellites. Then, using a technique called trilateration, the GPS receiver's computer software can calculate its position.

Sometimes, a GPS phone is called a GPS-enabled cell phone. The GPS receiver inside a cell phone is very small, and it's impossible to spot the differences between a GPS phone and a regular cell phone by size alone. Most new cell phones sold in the United States have at least limited GPS capabilities, allowing them to work with 911 emergency systems to locate a caller who either cannot give his location or doesn't know his location. This system, called Enhanced 911 (E911), was implemented by the United States Federal Communications Commission to ensure the location of callers on a cell phone can be determined in an emergency. Landline telephones have had this capability for a long time.


Certain models of cell phones contain more complex GPS receivers and GPS capabilities, and these cell phones usually are marketed as GPS phones. A true GPS phone would offer several features and services related to GPS, such as location tracking or turn-by-turn directions. A family might make use of location-tracking services to help track an elderly family member, for example. Other features and services often available with GPS phones include downloadable maps and location-based services, such as pertinent news and advertisements based on a person's location. Such GPS-related services are in addition to the monthly fee for a cell phone.

For a GPS phone to work properly, it needs to be able to send and receive clear signals to and from the GPS satellites. If the phone is inside a building, underground, or under dense trees, the locator might not work properly. The GPS receiver's signals are not strong enough to penetrate certain obstacles.


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Post 4

I am so relieved that new cell phones produced today come manufactured with Enhanced 911 capabilities.

I just moved into a new apartment, but I did not want to buy a land line phone because my cell phone is my main source of communication. My mom told me, however, that if I was every in an emergency situation, calling 911 from my phone would not automatically let the operator know where I was located. She insisted that I get a land line just in case I ever needed to call 911 from my house.

Thankfully, however, I was due for a cell phone upgrade around the same time that I moved in to my new place. The salesman

assured me that my new cell phone had E911 capabilities, and I was relieved. I even called the manufacture just to be sure.

I just wonder why it took so long for cell phone manufactures to master this technology. It seems like a simple enough concept to find a solution to.

Post 3

@SuperJD - If you have GPS capabilities on your mobile phone, then I do not think there is any reason for you to buy a separate GPS system for your car. Your cell phone can do the same things that a GPS system can.

There are several mobile apps that can give any smart phone owner GPS capabilities. The best ones are not free, but they are a lot cheaper than buying a whole another GPS device.

Save yourself the money, and use the GPS system that you already have on your phone. Some manufacturers also make stands for your phone that stick on your windshield, just like the ones that come with some GPS systems.

I hope that my comments are helpful to you.

Post 2

If I have a GPS phone, do I still need to get a GPS system for my car? I am just wondering if a phone could have all of the same capabilities as a GPS system.

Post 1

What about Assisted GPS? How does it work, and would that allow the GPS phone to work indoor?

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