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Apple iPhone 15 Pro models support India’s GPS alternative NavIC

The government has now given smartphone manufacturers until December 2025 to start shipping phones with NavIC support. The deadline has been further shortened to January, 2025 for 5G smartphones.

The newly launched iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will tap into India’s NavIC navigation system for obtaining location coordinates along with other systems like GPS, as per the tech specs page of the two models.

NavIC or the Navigation with Indian Constellation is the home-grown alternative to the US’s Global Positioning System (GPS). Last year, Reuters reported that the Indian government is pushing smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, Oppo, Apple, and Xiaomi to make their smartphones compatible with NavIC, but there was pushback from the manufacturers. A subsequent RTI response from the government shed more details on why manufacturers were concerned and what solutions the government proposed.

The government has now given smartphone manufacturers until December 2025 to start shipping phones with NavIC support. This deadline is shortened to January 2025 for 5G smartphones.

Other countries also have their own navigation systems similar to NavIC; the US has GPS, Russia has GLONASS, Europe has Galileo, and China has BeiDou. All these other systems are supported by the iPhone 15 lineup as well as by older iPhone models. It is important for a country to have an independent navigation system and for devices in that country to support that system given that foreign government-controlled navigation satellite systems are not guaranteed in hostile situations.

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While this is the first iPhone to support NavIC, few Android models from manufacturers like OnePlus, Poco, Vivo and Xiaomi, already support NavIC.

Notably, the lower variants of the new iPhones, the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus, don’t list NavIC support in their specs page.

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Commenting on the recent development, India’s Minister of State for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar told The Indian Express that the government plans to give additional incentives to smartphone manufacturers that use NavIC chips made in India. “The chip that Apple is using for navigation and positioning is being designed by Qualcomm, and we want to create an incentive structure that will encourage companies under the PLI schemes to use NavIC-supporting chips designed or made in India,” Chandrasekhar told the news outlet.

What is NavIC?

  • NavIC is a constellation of 7 active satellites operated by ISRO that provides real-time positioning and timing services that cover India and a region extending 1,500 km (930 mi) around it.
  • The project was approved in 2006, but NavIC has been operational only since 2018.
  • The system has an accuracy of better than 10 meters within India. In response to a parliamentary question, the government claimed that NavIC is “as good as GPS of the United States in terms of position accuracy.”
  • NavIC currently uses dual frequency in the L5 (at 1,176.45 MHz) and S (at 2,492.028 MHz) bands of the microwave spectrum, which adds to the accuracy factor, the government claims. But ISRO also plans to enable L1 support soon.
  • It provides a standard service for civilian use and a restricted service for encrypted use of authorized personnel including the military.
  • NavIC-based location trackers have been mandatory for commercial vehicles in India since April 2019.
  • The Indian government wants to take NavIC global in the future.

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