GLONASS support in our latest Xperia™ phones

Heard of GLONASS? It’s a Russian radio-based satellite navigation system that both complements and provides an alternative to GPS. GLONASS is fully supported in Xperia S, and any Xperia™ device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 or S3 processor and the latest software is capable of supporting GLONASS!  In this article, Magnus Persson from Sony Ericsson explains more about how GLONASS improves positioning and how you can incorporate this feature into your own apps. Read more after the jump.

***May 15, 2013 Note: The list of GLONASS-supported Xperia™ phones is updated.

Hi, I’m Magnus Persson, Positioning Specialist at Sony. I recently wrote an article on how indoor maps can save you money and add extra value to your organisation. Now I’d like to introduce another navigation topic called GLONASS.

Have you ever noticed how your navigation application suddenly slows and starts lagging when driving in downtown cities, just when you need precise instructions the most? This is mostly likely caused by the surrounding buildings blocking the view towards the GPS satellites. In order for a phone to calculate a good position, a clear line of access to four or more satellites is needed. If the signals have bounced off a wall before reaching the receiver, it will reduce the accuracy of the position. This is where GLONASS, another version of satellite based positioning system, can help.

What are GPS and GLONASS?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System and is a satellite based positioning system owned and maintained by the US Air Force. The GPS system currently contains 31 active satellites transmitting signals. GPS is used by millions of civil devices to calculate the position.

GLONASS stands for Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema and is also a satellite based positioning system but is owned and maintained by the Russian Space Forces. GLONASS development started in 1976 but it was not until October 2011 that full global coverage with modern satellites was achieved with 24 active satellites. Hence the number of GLONASS-only devices is very limited.

How GLONASS improves positioning

It’s simple math – by supporting both systems in a receiver, the number of available global satellites increases from 31 to 55. Therefore, more geographic locations are able to receive four or more signals from satellites, which in turn means more successful position calculations and also better accuracy of the calculated positions in challenging environments.

Field tests in downtown San Francisco found that the positioning accuracy of adding GLONASS improved as much as 50%. The test were executed with the help of Qualcomm  using two Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman™ smartphones, and 600 measurements were recorded and analyzed per device.

GLONASS table image

ConfigurationNumber of satellites used*CEP 68% (m)**
GPS only






* The number of satellites in average that were used to calculate the position. More satellites usually mean a more reliable and accurate location.

**CEP 68% means that 68% of the 600 measurements are within this distance, in meters, from the reference location. Hence lower values mean better accuracy.

How your app can benefit from GLONASS

Now that you understand the benefits of using GLONASS, the next step is ensuring that your app utilises it. If you’ve already developed an Android™ app using the GPS provider, and if the app is running on any 2011 Xperia™ smartphones, mostly likely it’s already using GLONASS satellites to improve the positioning accuracy and navigation experience. In particular, the Xperia™ arc, Xperia™ arc S, Xperia™ ray, Xperia™ neo, Xperia™ neo v, Xperia™ pro, Xperia™ active, Xperia™ mini and Xperia™ mini pro [list updated May 8]** (along with the latest Xperia™ software) are all capable of supporting GLONASS!

The GLONASS enhancement is transparent and backwards compatible with the existing applications but there are ways to see the benefit of the GLONASS satellites. One way is to download and install the free GPS Test application by Chartcross Ltd. from Android Market. The satellites numbered 65 to 88 are GLONASS satellites that are being tracked.

GPS Test application

Screenshot example of Chartcross Ltd.’s GPS Test application.

If you would like to indicate in any way in your application if GLONASS satellites are used to calculate the position you can do so by checking the GpsSatellite objects returned by the getSatellites method. If the PRN value returned by getPrn is between 65 and 88 and the usedInFix method returns true the last position was calculated using a GLONASS satellite.

To save power, the GLONASS receiver is only activated in problematic locations, such as in an urban environment with high rise buildings. Therefore, if you are in an open sky environment where there are enough GPS satellites available to calculate a good accuracy position, GLONASS will automatically be switched off temporarily to enhance the battery lifetime.

So the next time you’re having problems getting a fix on your location, use an Xperia™ smartphone supporting GLONASS to get faster and more accurate location information.

GLONASS-supported Xperia™ devices***

As of May 2013, The following Xperia™ smartphones and tablet have support for GLONASS:

More information

Feature image courtesy of ariadna @ Morguefile.

Comments 66

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  1. By Derek Harrison


    Hi, I have a Sony Xperia M2 that has just been upgraded to Lollipop. When on KitKat my applications Copilot and GPS test worked fine but after I went to Lollipop they are terrible. I think this is because Lollipop supports GLONASS but KitKat did not. Can you confirm this??

    • By Joe Padre


      Hi Derek,
      Thanks for the heads up. It might be an issue that we need to take up with Android, but we’ll ask our internal teams do some investigation on our side first.
      Best regards,
      Joe from Developer World

  2. By XDremrem


    Do the newer Z-Series (Z3, Z3+, Z5 and compact versions of them) still support GLONASS?
    (The European ones, if this matters)

    • By Joe Padre


      Hi XDremrem,
      According to the white papers, GLONASS seems to be in all the Z series, including Xperia Z5 compact.
      Best regards,
      Joe from Developer World

  3. By Mahesh Patel


    Does xperia E4G support Glonass in India?

    Mahesh Patel

    • By Joe Padre


      Hi Ashok,
      Xperia C does not have GLONASS support.
      Best regards,
      Joe from Developer World

  4. By Cat H


    Hi Joe, hope to hear from you soon. I would like to confirm if Xperia Z, Xperia Z1, Xperia T2 Ultra and Xperia Z2 have a offline supported/ standalone real satellite positioning function i.e. GPS/ Glonass?

    • By Joe Padre


      Hi Cat,
      Sorry for the delayed reply. I was able to confirm that yes, for the Xperia Z smartphones you’ve mentioned – Xperia Z, Xperia Z1, Xperia T2 Ultra and Xperia Z2 – they all have standalone GPS and GLONASS capability and they are supported in all markets.
      Best regards,
      Joe from Developer World

  5. By Cat H


    Hello Joe, thank you for the post of satellite positioning as I have been searching for a good smartphone with the best camera and satellite positing for long. I would like to confirm if Xperia Z, Xperia Z1, Xperia T2 Ultra have a offline supported/ standalone real satellite positioning function i.e. GPS/ Glonass? I check for this because I found the information unclear, for example when I click the Xperia Z link inserted above there is a mark * next to Glonass and when I stroll down it said * refers to “not available in all markets” – and I wonder if not available in ALL market why they put Glonass right on top? Also when I check for the country web for example in Hong Kong, it said the phones are with A-GPS and Glonasss* (available in some markets only) so could you confirm if this function come along if I buy a phone from Hong Kong? And, the fact is not many people know the details about GPS/ AGPS/ Glonass/ AGlonass and that they might just tell me satellite positioning is not supporting simply because I would not be able to use offline google map. When I call the support team in Hong Kong, some say yes some say no so I don’t know who to trust. Please could you confirm if satellite positioning, i.e. a standalone offline GPS/ Glonass is supported for Xperia Z, Xperia Z1, Xperia T2 Ultra. Thank you very much.

  6. By yogendra bajpai


    Does Xperia M Dual being sold in INDIA have GLONASS support?


    • By Mike Cowlishaw


      Hi .. I have an Xperia Dual M (nice phone!) and yes it does detect and use GLONASS satellites (according to GPSTest).


      • By yogendra bajpai


        Thanks for reply.
        I’ve seen WP before asking you Sir but as manufacturer of processor of M, Qualcomm, promises every Snapdragon S2,S3 & later will have GLONASS support. What about that; M has S4+ processor as given in White Paper and advertised as well.

    • By Joe Padre


      Hi Ravindra,
      If the device you are using has GLONASS support, it will work in Sri Lanka.
      Joe from Developer World

  7. By Sandie Brown


    Help Please Someone!! Can anyone advise if the Xperia Tablet Z SGP311 WiFi has GLONASS capability in Australia?

    • By Joe Padre


      Hi Rahul,
      No, sorry, Xperia L does not support GLONASS.
      Best regards,
      Joe from Developer World

  8. By Deepak Patil


    I have been informed by Sony India Support team that the Xperia ZR verison in India doesn’t support GLONASS.
    Is it true? IF yes then what is the reason for not including it in Indian version models.
    I would like to know which particular model available in India supports GLONASS.

  9. By Luciano Manfredini


    Hi Joe!
    I’ ve just discovered about GLONASS and I’ m very curious.
    Currently I have an Xperia U and it has the best internal antenna I’ ve seen even without the GLONASS, so I’ m evaluating which Xperia (supporting GLONASS) to buy for exploring the improved capabilities.
    Just a question: is there a way to increase the positioning update rate into your devices?
    I’ m developing an application for lap timing into a motocross track and the time resolution is important.
    Currently I use an external-bluetooth-NMEA-antenna able to provide up to 10 position/speed/HDOP (and more) per second, but it would be great to get into the track with a single device: the phone.

    Thank you
    Luciano Manfredini

    • By Joe Padre


      Hey Luciano,
      I checked with our GLONASS specialists. The maximum update rate is one update per second, for all our products. The GPS receiver is not optimised for racing, so the position filtering might not work well with quick acceleration and sharp turns. The recommendation is to use an external receiver.
      Hope this helps.
      Best regards,
      Joe from Developer World

  10. By Luciano Manfredini


    Hi, Joe.
    I just discovered about GLONASS and I’ m very curious.
    My Xperia U does not support it, but it has the best internal GPS antenna I’ ve seen comparing with other devices. So I’ m evaluating which Xperia, supporting GLONASS, to buy for using its improved capabilities.
    Just a question: is there a way to improve the positioning updating rate into your smartphones?
    I’ m developing an application for lap timing into motocross tracks.
    For having a good time resolution (up to ten position/speed/HDOP per second) I must use an NMEA external bluetooth antenna, but it would be great to work only with the internal one.

    Thank you
    Luciano Manfredini