If you have a smartphone it probably has a GPS receiver module from Qualcomm which looks for US owned GPS satellites in orbit. Soon this will change and those Qualcomm receivers will start looking for Russian made GLONASS satellites too – yes very unAmerican – providing a lot quicker and accurate position fix. This will specially come in handy for those urban jungles like New York where your current setup relies heavily on cell phone towers to figure out your approximate location.
The interesting fact is GLONASS satellites mostly focus on northern latitudes (think location of Russia) which provides a lot better reception in northern countries such as Canada and northern states of U.S.
Just like GPS you’re using right now, GLONASS won’t cost you a penny however you’ll have to buy a new phone – possibly next year – that has a new Qualcomm recevier which can listen for both GLONASS and GPS satellites.
One of the writers at PCMag had a chance to see a demo unit in action in New York. They went to 28th St. in midtown Manhattan where’s there’s plenty of concrete blocking view of the sky. First they let the phone look for satellites using only GPS and it only got two – which is not enough for a position fix. And then they turned on the ‘use GLONASS’ button or whatever they had and started seeing 14 satellites. They immediately had a location fix.
Russia already has GLONASS powered phones and in the U.S. Garmin’s new eTrex seem to be the only end-consumer products that uses both GPS and GLONASS.