iPhone 13 had satellite features, but Apple lacked a business partner

Posted:
in iPhone edited August 2022
Rumors of Apple adding satellite communication support to the iPhone 14 have been bolstered by Ming-Chi Kuo's claim Apple had completed hardware development for the feature in the iPhone 13.




The partnership between SpaceX and T-mobile to bring satellite internet to cellphones rejuvenated rumors that Apple would offer something similar for the iPhone. According to well-connected TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple's already worked on the technology to enable it.

In a Medium post by Kuo about the iPhone 14 satellite communication support rumors, Kuo claims to have learned that Apple "had already completed the hardware development of satellite communication in the iPhone 13." This does seem to track with rumors that the iPhone 12 and later models could use the communications technology.

However, Apple didn't implement the feature in the iPhone 13, because it hadn't partnered up with a service provider.

"The lack of support is because the business model had not been negotiated," says Kuo.

The support may still be included in the iPhone 14, with Kuo adding that Apple had completed hardware tests for the feature before mass production. For the iPhone 14, satellite communications will allegedly provide emergency texting and voice services, rather than general service.

The analyst warns the launch of the service depends on "whether Apple and operators can settle on a business model." Ultimately, Kuo admits it's hard to predict when Apple will actually roll out the feature, but adds "I believe it will happen eventually."

Kuo cites MediaTek's demonstration of 5G smartphone hardware being used for satellite communication, as well as Huawei's September 6 media event for the Mate 50 with potential satellite-based emergency texting features, as proof that Apple has to move to offer satellite services to consumers.

As for the satellite communications partner, Kuo believes Globalstar is the most likely candidate. Within the satellite comms market, firms like Globalstar "have the highest entry barriers," which Kuo says should draw the attention of investors.

In April, a report discussing satellite communications potentially being added to the Apple Watch alongside the iPhone mentioned Globalstar as the most likely partner for Apple. Globalstar reached an agreement in February to buy 17 new satellites for "continuous satellite services" for a potential unnamed client believed to be Apple.

The point of adding satellite communications is to eliminate cellular blackspots for iPhone users. In the event of a natural disaster or geopolitical turmoil where masts can be damaged or disabled, satellite communication will continue to work as an emergency lifeline.

Given that Apple doesn't tend to make announcements far ahead of a product or service's introduction, as well as the potential partnership with Globalstar and the hardware testing, Apple's satellite service launch may be a lot more meaningful to consumers than the T-Mobile and SpaceX announcement. If only because it will probably be available to use much sooner.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    So does the iPhone 13 range have the hardware to enable satellite communications if a ‘business model’ is concluded?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 14
    Couldn't find a photo of a SpaceX StarLink satellite? The headline image is of a Russian Soyuz/Progress spacecraft.
    watto_cobrabyronlFileMakerFellerelijahgtokyojimu
  • Reply 3 of 14
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 2,215member
    Allowing Apple Maps tiles to be loaded via Satellite would be awesome, too.

    Boggles my mind that Maps doesn't preload all tiles for a given navigation route.
    watto_cobrabyronlFileMakerFellerelijahgappleinsideruser
  • Reply 4 of 14
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,994member
    I suspect that this feature would be one useless very quickly for a (large) natural disaster or geopolitical turmoil as it would be quickly swamped.
    watto_cobrabyronl
  • Reply 5 of 14
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,126member
    This is more isolated cases of remote injury or lost hikers than natural disasters. Sat comms just can’t handle large scale demand.
    The most common type of natural disaster we have in my country is severe tropical cyclones and floods. Yes cell towers get blown over. But satellite is not a good alternative because in those circumstances you have lots and lots of heavy cloud cover and wet conditions that degrades satellite comms. My old iridium phone works best in open grassland savannah on cloudless days. In big disasters we quickly bring in lots of mobile networked cell towers as a superior solution. 

    That said, carriers still sell these old iridium phones that have not been updated in 15 years at least, are ugly and heavy bricks with huge antennas and are expensive to operate.  A classic potential market for Apple to enter and completely disrupt.
    edited August 2022 watto_cobrabyronlFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 6 of 14
     I believe this feature is to compete with the Garmin GPS sets with InReach technology.  These are emergency communicators when one is lost or seriously hurt while out of cell coverage.  Typically used by hikers, explorers, off roaders,  etc.  
    watto_cobrabyronlFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 7 of 14
    laytechlaytech Posts: 333member
    "Ultimately, Kuo admits it's hard to predict when Apple will actually roll out the feature, but adds "I believe it will happen eventually." - um duh, of course it will happen eventually but what time scale does eventually mean, this year, next year, 5 years, 10 years. Of course it is almost certain to happen, as is space travel for the masses, its not a matter of if but when...not exactly a sound prediction when its pretty much stating the obvious but hey ho, great when it happens.
    edited August 2022 FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 8 of 14
    longfanglongfang Posts: 436member
    Allowing Apple Maps tiles to be loaded via Satellite would be awesome, too.

    Boggles my mind that Maps doesn't preload all tiles for a given navigation route.
    If off the grid capability is needed, stand alone GPS receivers exist for a reason. Also an app like Motion X would work. 
  • Reply 9 of 14
    Anilu_777 said:
    So does the iPhone 13 range have the hardware to enable satellite communications if a ‘business model’ is concluded?
    Hard to be sure, but it looks like the 5G modem lacks the baseband needed.
  • Reply 10 of 14
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 578member
    The last feature we need is the ability to use phones in remote areas. No one wants to hike to cell free remote areas only to find some schmuck on the phone. Also, safety is the go to justification when no other legitimate reasons exist. Also, serves to prop up unnecessary uses. 
  • Reply 11 of 14
    y2any2an Posts: 184member
    This isn’t grounded in reality. Just look at the antenna dimensions for satellite…
  • Reply 12 of 14
    If Huawei can have satellite communications, why can't the Appe phone? It's not a matter of spectacular innovation, just cash
    And balancing the power requirements, availability of components, cost of production, adjustments to automated disassembly processes, following regulatory requirements for every possible jurisdiction, etc, etc.

    That being said, I find it very plausible that Apple have the hardware in place already, and it's going to be turned on in software when Apple deems everything ready. One factor they may be considering is the public reaction to the feature - is there more benefit to delaying so that more devices can use it from day one, or will there be backlash of "you had this the whole time and didn't enable it?"

    The hyperbole of "Huawei is going to announce it, so Apple MUST ship this feature ASAP!" is unwarranted - it happened with 3G, with 4G and 5G, it's happening with "foldable phones"... Apple doesn't like to be perceived as a follower, they wait until they can show how their solution is better than anything else out there. And their customers are very satisfied with that approach.
  • Reply 13 of 14
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,753member
    y2an said:
    This isn’t grounded in reality. Just look at the antenna dimensions for satellite…
    You mean like the antennas used for GPS, which uses... satellites?
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