According to reports, Apple plans to integrate satellite connectivity hardware into its upcoming smartphones and tablets.
September is only a few days away, when Apple is expected to announce its next iPhone lineup. A new report from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo provides a glimpse into what we might be facing: texting and calling even when there is no 4G or 5G coverage.
Kuo, a well-known and reliable source of information on Apple features, claims the iPhone 13 will have hardware that allows it to communicate with low earth orbit satellites, as seen in an investor note seen by MacRumors. According to the outlet, the hardware in question is a Qualcomm X60 baseband chip that supports satellite communications. Software features are needed to enable such a system.
You may recall that LEO satellites are the same type of satellites that support SpaceX’s Starlink internet service. Although this is true, it doesn’t appear that Apple will partner with SpaceX for satellite communication.
As Kuo noted in his investor note, the company is likely to partner with satellite communication provider Globalstar, which will have the ‘most to gain from a technology collaboration’ with Apple. The partnership is also logical considering that both companies work with Qualcomm. Snapdragon’s new 5G X65 modem integrated Globalstar’s N53 technology in late February.
According to Kuo, network operators should work directly with Globalstar so iPhone 13 users can benefit from the phone’s satellite communications capability. Thus, customers could avoid having to contract Globalstar elsewhere or pay extra fees.
Kuo stated that working with network operators was the easiest scenario, but it’s unclear whether this plan will work or whether satellite communication connectivity will be free of charge. There is also no word on whether iPhone users would only be able to use Apple services, such as iMessage and FaceTime, when they are outside of the 4G and 5G range.
This is not the last time we will see satellite communications capabilities in Apple’s products, Kuo points out. As of now, Apple is purportedly planning to implement this feature in a variety of products, which could include its mixed reality headset, electric cars, and Internet-connected accessories.