Apple has updated its website for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in Japan to add support for Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), a Japanese satellite positioning system that could improve location features for users in the region versus traditional GPS (via Macotakara.jp).
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While it’s unclear if users are already benefiting from the support for the positioning system, the website for QZSS is also now listing iPhone 7 and 7 Plus as a supported device alongside Apple Watch Series 2. It does note, however, that support is limited specifically to the iPhones sold in Japan.
The system, which its developers say is sometimes referred to as the ‘Japanese GPS,’ actually works together with GPS to provide faster and more precise positioning capabilities:
Complements GPS for a satellite positioning service that is more precise and stable… QZSS can be used in an integrated way with GPS, bringing the number of satellites to eight or more (six GPS satellites and three QZS) and making stable, high-precision positioning possible. QZS are compatible with GPS and receivers can be procured at a low cost, so it is expected that position information businesses utilizing geographical and spatial information will be developed.
Support for the new satellite system, as noted by the report today from Japanese blog Macotakara, could improve positioning for users in Japan versus traditional GPS from 30 seconds to 1 minute to as fast as 15 seconds with QZSS.
The QZSS is already operating but it’s not clear if iPhone users will immediately see a benefit in Japan. The QZSS website notes that it plans to launch additional satellites in 2018, at which time it claims “three satellites will be visible at all times from locations in the Asia-Oceania regions.” A seven satellite operation will go live at a later date, however, and will be required to allow for “accurate position information even in urban areas and mountainous regions.”
Update: We spoke with some folks in the know that tell us iPhone 7/7 Plus and Apple Watch Series 2 indeed already supported QZSS and the specs were updated today to reflect that. Users should benefit from the support where QZSS is available and where ever it expands to in the future.