Dual-frequency GNSS on Android devices

A visualization of the various GNSS carrier frequencies (Image courtesy of Broadcom via GPS World)

Does your device support L1 + L5?

First, let’s start with the easiest way to tell if your Android device supports both L1 and L5 signals.

No carrier frequency (CF) data on a Samsung Galaxy S8+ (using GPSTest app)
  1. What’s the status of Android support for dual frequency GNSS?
  2. Are there any devices out there that support dual frequency?

Android 8.0 support

In Android 8.0 Oreo (API Level 26), there is a new method to get the carrier frequency for each satellite signal in view. The developer documentation for GnssStatus.getCarrierFrequencyHz() says:

Device support

Broadcom made a splash in September 2017 by announcing the launch of the BCM47755 GNSS chip that officially supports multiple carrier frequencies:

  • GPS — L1 C/A + L5
  • Galileo — E1 + E5a
  • QZSS — L1 + L5
  • GLONASS — L1
  • BeiDou — B1

Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ released on March 11, 2018 are prime candidates for dual frequency support. However, the official Samsung Galaxy S9 spec only says:

  1. Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (U.S., Latin America, Chinese, and Japanese markets)
  2. Samsung Exynos 9810 (European and other markets)
Galaxy S9 Exynos variant shows single carrier frequency information using GPSTest (Source: B. Buster)
  1. Does the Broadcom BCM47752 chip support dual-frequency GNSS?
  2. If so, does the Galaxy S9/S9+ Exynos variant need a firmware update to enable it?
  1. Find the file /vendor/etc/gps.xml on your device
  2. In gps.xml, find the <gll> section
  3. Replace the MultiCarrLnaMask and MultiCarrRFMode lines with the following (you also might want to save the current lines in case you need to revert these changes):
MultiCarrLnaMask ="L1_EXT_ON | L5_EXT_ON"
MultiCarrRFMode ="GL_MULTI_CARR_RF_MODE_L1_L5"
MultiCarrLnaMask ="L1_EXT_ON|L5_EXT_ON"
MultiCarrRFMode ="GL_MULTI_CARR_RF_MODE_L1_L2_L5"

Xiaomi Mi 8

According to leaks of the retail box prior to launch, the Xiaomi Mi 8 was rumored to feature “dual-GPS”. Immediately following the device launch on May 31st, The Verge and TechPP both reported that the Mi 8 does indeed support the L1 and L5 bands of GPS. The EU GSA, the organization that operates Galileo, capped this off with a definitive press release on June 4th with the following information:

Providing enhanced performance, the Mi 8 offers users better positioning in urban environments” (Source: EU GSA)
Xiaomi Mi 8 with Android P beta running GPSTest on Sept. 8th (Source: Brian Nguyễn)

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was announced on August 9, 2018. However, the live-stream event made no mention of dual-frequency GNSS. In the first teardown of the Note 9 by Russian site hi-tech.mail.ru, presumably of the Exynos variant, you can’t see the printing on the chips on the portion of the board that housed the BCM47752 on the Galaxy S9, so we can’t yet tell if a BCM 4775X chip is included in the Note 9 Exynos. In TechInsight’s teardown of the Note 9 Snapdragon 845 variant there is no BCM4775X chip to be found. The Note 9 launched on August 24th, and while I haven’t seen a teardown of the Exynos variant with high resolution photos yet, the initial screenshots don’t look promising.

Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro

Huawei launched the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro on October 16, 2018, and — tl;dr — it supports dual-frequency! However, there is a twist. Instead of using the Broadcom chipset, these devices use the Kirin 980, which is also being marketed as the “World 1st 7nm Mobile AI Chipset”. But, more importantly for this article, the Kirin 980 website says:

Mate 20 Pro finally shows dual-frequency GNSS as of EMUI 9.1.0.300 (Source: Richard Gadd)

Pixel 3

While some had hoped that Google would showcase dual-frequency GNSS support in the new Pixel 3 family, after being released on October 18 specs and screenshots show no dual-frequency support.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3

Xiaomi announced the Mi Mix 3 on October 25th, and, as Android Authority stated, user screenshots show that it supports dual frequency GNSS for GPS, Galileo, and QZSS:

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 screenshot showing dual-frequency for GPS, Galileo, and QZSS (Source: Lance Moss)

Samsung Galaxy S10

On November 14th, Samsung announced the Exynos 9 Series (9820) application processor, which powers the international variants of the Galaxy S10. The Exynos 9820 specs did not include any mention of dual-frequency GNSS. However, based on a tear down it looks like Samsung put a Broadcom BCM47752KLB1G chip in the Exynos S10+, which appears to be the same mysterious model that appeared in the S9. Unfortunately, though, so far screenshots aren’t showing any L5 signals. Is it possible that L5 support could be enabled on the S10 by hacking the config?

No L5 signals on the Exynos S10 so far (Source: Mike L)
Dual-frequency is supported on the Hong Kong (Snapdragon) variant of the Galaxy S10! (Source: Cyris Woo)

Honor View 20 (V20)

Honor announced the View 20 in December of 2018, and it’s specs claim dual-frequency GNSS using the Kirin 980 chipset. Early versions of the device didn’t display CF values, but the update from Magic 2.0 to 2.1 fixed it!

L5 values are displayed on the Honor View 20 as of Magic 2.1 (Source: Graham Sherwood)

LG G8 ThinQ

On February 24th, LG revealed the LG G8 ThinQ, another Snapdragon 855 device…but again, no mention of dual frequency GNSS. And unfortunately this photo of a Sprint floor model (likely the LMG820UM0) does not show dual-frequency GNSS:

This Sprint floor model of the LG G8 does not show dual-frequency GNSS (Source: Andy)

LG V50 ThinQ 5G

Same as the above — launched February 24th, Snapdragon 855, no mention of dual-frequency…

Sony Xperia 1

Another of the 2019 Snapdragon 855 devices, but again, the official specs make no mention of dual-frequency GNSS.

Xiaomi Mi 9

The Xiaomi Mi 9 uses the Snapdragon 855, but, unlike other Snapdragon 855 devices, it does officially claim to support dual frequency for GPS:L1+L5 and Galileo:E1+E5a! And screenshots do indeed show L5 and E5a signals!

Dual-frequency shown on the Xiaomi Mi 9 (Source: Patrick lecourt)

Huawei P30 and P30 Pro

Announced on March 26, 2019, the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro specs do claim dual-frequency support:

Huawei P30 Pro supports dual-frequency GNSS, showing both L5 and E5a in use (Source: George Simas)

OPPO Reno

In an article on April 4th, 2019, OPPO’s Vice President, Shen Yiren, said:

The Oppo Reno 10x supports L5 and E5a (Source: Steve)

Lenovo Z6 Pro and Youth Edition

On April 23, 2019, Lenovo announced the Z6 Pro, based on the Snapdragon 855, which claims dual-frequency support. On May 9th, it also announced that the Z6 Youth Edition will also have dual-frequency GNSS. And according to this GPS World article, the Z6 Youth Edition will use the Allystar HD8040 series chipset and claims sub-meter accuracy, as well as being the first to support dual-frequency for Beidou using the new BDS phase III signal B2a.

Lenovo Z6 Youth Edition appears to have a bug that mislabels dual-frequency signals (Source: Kurt Keller)

Pixel 3A

In early May 2019 Google revealed the Pixel 3A, which uses the Snapdragon 670 chipset. Unfortunately, this means no dual-frequency support, as a screenshot shows.

OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro

These devices launched in mid-May 2019, and the specs, which feature a Snapdragon 855, claim dual-frequency support:

The OnePlus 7 Pro shows dual-frequency GNSS (Source: JLR)

Asus ZenFone 6

According to the Asus specs, the ZenFone 6 supports dual-frequency:

Xiaomi Redmi K20 and K20 Pro

Specs for the K20 Pro indicate dual-frequency GNSS via a Snapdragon 855! However, the K20 isn’t expected to support L5, as it has only a Snapdragon 730.

Xiaomi Mi 9T and 9T Pro

Rumor had it that the Mi 9T and 9T Pro are a re-branded Redmi K20 and K20 Pro, and if so the 9T Pro would support dual-frequency GNSS as well. Xiaomi has confirmed that the Mi 9T won’t have dual-frequency GNSS. But the below screenshot shows that the 9T Pro does support L1+L5 and E1+E5a!

The Xiaomi 9T Pro shows dual-frequency GNSS (Source: Andres Zanzani)

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and 10+ (and 5G variants)

Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 10, 10+, and 5G variants on August 7, 2019. Despite having a Snapdragon 855 chipset in North America, China, and Japan (and the new Exynos 9825 with the BCM47755 in Europe and elsewhere), the Note 10 specs page only says “ Location (GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou)”.

Note 10 5G (SM-N971N) and 10+ 5G (SM-N976N) South Korean variants support dual-frequency! (Source: JaeGwang)
A Galaxy Note 10+ pre-order on T-Mobile (SM-N975U) is also showing dual-frequency! (Source: Robert Kay JR)

Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL

The new Pixel 4 devices officially launched on October 15, 2019, with both devices sporting a Snapdragon 855. At first glance the tech specs simply say:

Pixel 4 showing dual-frequency GNSS as of release QQ1B.191205.012.A1 (Source:
Christian Brodtkorb Wiik)

OnePlus 7T

Released in October 2019, the OnePlus 7T sports the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+, and shows dual-frequency GNSS!

OnePlus 7T shows dual-frequency! (Source: Dan Rigby)

Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra 5G

The Samsung Galaxy S20 family was released on March 6th, 2020. The Snapdragon 865 is certainly capable of dual-frequency, while Exynos 990 is not — but it appears from this teardown that the Exynos 990 is paired with a dual-frequency-capable Broadcom BCM47755 (an interesting difference from the mysterious BCM47752 that appeared in the S9 and S10 models, and closer to the design in the Note 10 Exynos family).

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro Max

The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max was announced on March 11th. And GPSTest was actually featured in the launch event!! Not only is dual-frequency supported, but so is the Indian GNSS NavIC/IRNSS via a Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G chipset. This article has a screenshot.

OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro

The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro launched on April 14, 2020 with a Snapdragon 865 chipset, and early reports indicate dual frequency is supported! See the screenshot here!

Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite 5G

The Mi 10 Lite 5G was released in late May 2020 with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset, and the screenshot of GPSTest shows dual-frequency GNSS!

Samsung Note 20 Ultra

The Note 20 Ultra was released in mid August 2020, with the Snapdragon 865 Plus for U.S. and other variants, and the Exynos 990 for the European markets. Based on this screenshot, looks like the U.S. unlocked variant (SM-N986U1) does indeed support dual-frequency GNSS, as does the Exynos variant (SM-N986B/DS).

Google Pixel 4a and 4a 5G

The Pixel 4a was released in August 2020 with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G chipset. Unfortunately, this means no dual-frequency support.

Google Pixel 5

The Pixel 5 was announced on Sept 30th with a release date of October 15, 2020. It also sports the Snapdragon 765G therefore should also support dual-frequency GNSS. And a screenshot verifies this!

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

The Galaxy S20 FE 5G was released later than the rest of the S20 family on October 2, 2020. With a Snapdragon 865, it should be capable of dual-frequency! BUT! On November 15th a user reported that their S20 FE 5G is NOT showing dual-frequency, as did another with Canadian model SM-G781W. Please send in more screenshots with your model numbers and let me know what you see!

OnePlus Nord N10

Released in October 2020, the Nord N10 sports a Snapdragon 690 and shows dual-frequency.

Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+, S21 Ultra

The U.S. variants of the S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra all feature the Snapdragon 888, which supports dual-frequency GNSS. And it looks like the S21 Ultra (SM-G998U1) does support dual-frequency!

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Snapdragon variant (GM-G998U1) does support dual-frequency! (Source: Matthew Miller)
Samsung Galaxy S21 Exynos variant (SM-G991B) does NOT show dual-frequency (Source: Mike O)

Summary

It initially seemed that the mysterious Broadcom BCM47752 chip in the Exynos variant of the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ was the prime candidate for dual-frequency GNSS support in a commercially-available Android devices. However, the Xiaomi Mi 8 (launched on May 31st, 2018) was the first commercially-available phone to officially support dual-frequency, showing GPS, Galileo, and QZSS in GPSTest! Other supporting devices that have launched since include the Huawei Mate 20/20 Pro in mid-October (using the Kirin 980 chipset), Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, Huaewi P30 and P30Pro, OPPO Reno, Lenovo Z6 Pro and Youth Edition, and OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro. Support for dual-frequency support in the Snapdragon 855 chipset announced in early December 2018 promises to bring dual-frequency support to many future devices in U.S., Latin America, Chinese, and Japanese markets, and we have seen support in the Hong Kong variant of the Galaxy S10! But, all other variants of the S10 don’t show dual-frequency support (??). However, starting in mid-2019, more devices, including the Note 10 and 10+, started showing dual-frequency GNSS in GPSTest.

Quick reference

EDIT June 2019 — I’ve created a table of devices mentioned in this article for quick reference — see:

GPSTest Database

EDIT April 2021 — I’ve created a way for GPSTest users to directly contribute the capabilities of their devices, including dual-frequency support, to a crowd-sourced database — the GPSTest Database. Read more here:

References

  1. XDA Developers thread on S9 Exynos and dual frequency support— https://forum.xda-developers.com/galaxy-s9/help/gps-receiver-exynos-model-t3748641/
  2. European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA). “World’s first dual-frequency GNSS smartphone hits the market,” June 4, 2018. https://www.gsa.europa.eu/newsroom/news/world-s-first-dual-frequency-gnss-smartphone-hits-market

Non-smartphone dual-frequency hardware

  1. STMicroelectronics Teseo APP (Automotive Precise Positioning) receiver
  2. u-blox F9 technology platform (e.g., ZED-F9P multi-band GNSS module as covered by GPS World)
  3. u-blox ANN-MB multi‑band active GNSS antenna, as covered by GPS World

Acknowledgements

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Improving the world, one byte at a time. @sjbarbeau, https://github.com/barbeau, https://www.linkedin.com/in/seanbarbeau/. I work @CUTRUSF. Posts are my own.

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