Mobile Phone Positioning


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In today’s cell phone markets, location services bridge the gap between feature phones and smartphones. Discover flexible hybrid mobile phone positioning solutions that can add accurate location services to mobile phones in a cost-competitive way.

Phone Geolocation: Smartphones vs. Feature Phones

Smartphones have set the standard for what many consumers expect and require when it comes to positioning capabilities. Smartphones provide real-time, accurate, precise location tracking, which powers valuable location services within operating system features and apps. 

This robust location functionality is made possible through hybrid positioning technology that blends multiple types of location tracking:

  • Wi-Fi positioning: Mobile positioning using wireless networks and wireless access points to position devices indoors and in urban areas.

  • Cellular positioning: Uses cell towers to position devices based on variables such as proximity and angle of arrival. This is a power-efficient solution that has zero battery impact and also works great when Wi-Fi and GPS signals are unavailable.

  • GPS/GNSS positioning: This technology leverages satellite signals, required for positioning outdoors, in rural areas, and other places where Wi-Fi and cell signals are unavailable. 

Until recently, this hybrid positioning system was seen as out of reach for feature phones, which traditionally have minimal hardware and cost requirements. Feature phones typically have operating systems with limited functionality, and varying levels of network types they can connect to.

In many cases, location tracking in feature phones strictly relies on proximity to cell towers. Cell phone triangulation – using three towers to determine a phone’s location – can approximate a phone within a certain area, but it can not pinpoint it. As the number of cell towers increases in a given area, positioning becomes more accurate.  

Recently, feature phones with GPS support have become more common. However, this location technology falls short of the hybrid positioning found in smartphones. While GPS is often considered synonymous with global positioning, in reality, mobile phone GPS tracking technology is limited. GPS signals can support location services like outdoor navigation to some degree, but they are not reliable indoors. They can also be blocked by large buildings, atmospheric conditions, or natural features like trees and mountains. The level of precision in GPS positioning can also vary a great deal.

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The Case For Better Feature Phone Location Accuracy

Historically, price and availability have been the main drivers in the feature phone market. The use of low-cost hardware and proprietary software keeps feature phones affordable. 

As a result, feature phones are mainstays in developing and rural markets, where smartphone use has been slow to become universal due to lack of network connectivity, steep learning curves, expense, and other factors. Feature phones are also being recognized more broadly for a few distinct advantages: longer battery life, greater durability, and less exposure to habit-forming apps and screen time. 

As the feature market grows and becomes more competitive, manufacturers are challenged to preserve these key qualities while adding more value for users. Enhanced positioning can hold the answer. Accurate real-time phone geolocation tracking enables location services, which underpins value-driving functions like live navigation, maps and other apps and features that enhance user experiences.

Further, accurate phone positioning is also required in the U.S. and Europe for E911 and 112 regulations. Location accuracy for these services is important because it allows first responders to pinpoint the location of a caller during an emergency. When feature phones are relied upon during an emergency situation, emergency positioning software plays a critical role.  

Learn More About Skyhook Emergency Positioning Software

Challenges of Mobile Positioning on Feature Phones

There are several barriers and challenges involved with enhancing location accuracy in low-cost phones:

  • Proprietary operating systems: Phones built for functionality on limited hardware often rely on non-traditional operating systems like KaiOS or custom versions of Android, and need an independent location solution. Because devices are built with limited hardware, embedding the location at the operating system level is a great approach.

  • Battery life is a priority: Phone positioning solutions can be power-intensive, which decreases device battery life and detracts from one of the major selling points behind feature phones. 

  • Low-cost hardware and chipsets: Location technology demands certain hardware resources and constraints that can be difficult to accommodate in low-cost handsets.


Skyhook’s Precision Location Mobile Phone Positioning Solution

Skyhook’s Precision Location software is a positioning solution flexible and cost-effective enough to overcome the aforementioned challenges and add accurate location tracking to devices of all kinds, including feature phones. Learn how Kyocea’s DuraXV flip phone leverages Skyhook.

Precision Location uses algorithms for mobile phone positioning through GPS, Wi-Fi, and cell signals. With global coverage via 5+ billion geolocated Wi-Fi access points and over 200 million cell towers, our system provides the most accurate and precise location available. Phones with Precision Location can be located worldwide, in any environment, including indoors and dense urban areas, even when the device is offline. 

Furthermore, Precision Location software is incredibly flexible and tailored to each use case, which allows phone manufacturers to keep device costs down and prolong battery life while still offering location-based features and helping network operators meet E911 and 112 requirements. 

Precision Location Advantages for Mobile Phone Tracking:

  • Multiple integration options: Use custom SDKs, embedded solutions, or APIs to add positioning capabilities at the hardware or operating system level. 

  • Meet regulatory requirements: Precision Location can help network operators meet E911 and 112 location requirements

  • Prolonged battery life: Precision Location software can be configured to support location-based features while maximizing battery life. 

  • Support for nontraditional operating systems: Drop-in Precision Location software can add positioning without the need to bog down the OS with bundled off-the-shelf solutions. 

  • Flexible pricing: Pay only for the software features you need, with a pricing structure suited to your use case. 

Reach out to us below to learn more or to start your next location services project leveraging hybrid positioning technology. 

Talk to a Positioning Expert

Ask your location questions, or share your mobile phone positioning challenges. We’ll be in touch to answer your questions and explain how Skyhook can work for your unique application.