iPhone 13’s satellite capabilities — What to expect

Apple’s new satellite connectivity feature will not allow users to make calls from anywhere on earth without cellular reception.

This is according to Bloomberg’s Apple expert Mark Gurman, who has provided more details on what to expect from the feature in his latest Power On newsletter.

Reports that the upcoming iPhone 13 will feature satellite calling and messaging first surfaced after a recent investor note was released by renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Kuo said the iPhone 13 range would boast a customised Qualcomm X60 series baseband modem chip for connecting to low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites.

He also expects satellite connectivity to become available in the upcoming Apple Car, Apple’s AR headset, and other IoT devices.

Concept image of Apple’s upcoming VR headset by Antonio de Rosa.

Gurman said that Apple has been exploring how its devices could work with satellites for almost five years.

He believes it’s possible that hardware support for the feature would arrive first on the iPhone 13, but his sources have indicated that the related features will only go live in 2022.

The satellite features are dedicated to emergency use in areas without any cellular coverage and only in select markets.

They will not enable using the iPhone like a satellite phone for calling from anywhere in the world with no cellular connectivity.

“That’s not happening now, next year or anytime in the near future,” Gurman said.

“Apple is working on at least two approaches: transmitting short emergency texts and sending SOS distress signals for crises, like plane crashes or sinking ships, in remote areas.”

He explained that launching calling from anywhere would require expensive hardware that was not yet ready for prime time and could cause a revolt from the phone carriers that Apple relies on.

Gurman added that Apple plans to deploy its own satellites to beam data to devices, but that was likely several years down the road.

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iPhone 13’s satellite capabilities — What to expect