There are only a few days left until September, which is when Apple is expected to reveal its new iPhone 13 lineup. However, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has given us a sneak peek at what we can expect: texting and calling even when you don’t have 4G and 5G coverage.
Kuo, a longtime and reliable source for Apple features, said in an investor note seen by MacRumors that the iPhone 13 reportedly will be equipped with hardware that can connect low Earth orbit satellites. The hardware in question is said to be a custom Qualcomm X60 baseband chip that supports satellite communications, the outlet stated. It would need to be enabled with specific software features.
If you recall, LEO satellites are the same types of satellites SpaceX is using for its Starlink internet service. Despite this fact, it doesn’t look like Apple will be partnering with SpaceX for its satellite communication connectivity.
According to Kuo’s investor note, the company’s partner will probably be satellite communication service provider Globalstar, which is the “most likely to cooperate with Apple in terms of technology and service coverage.” The partnership would make sense considering that both companies work with Qualcomm. This past February, Qualcomm integrated Globalstar’s Band n53 technology into its new 5G X65 modem.
In order for iPhone 13 users to take advantage of the phone’s satellite communications connectivity, Kuo said that the “simplest scenario” was getting network operators to work with Globalstar directly. This would in theory save customers from having to pay extra or contract the Globalstar service elsewhere.
Although Kuo said working with network operators was the simplest scenario, it’s unclear if this plan will actually pan out or if satellite communications connectivity will be a free feature. Additionally, it’s also unknown whether this would mean iPhone users would only be able to use Apple services, such as iMessage and FaceTime, when they’re out of 4G and 5G range.
Kuo points out that this might not be the last time we see satellite communications connectivity in Apple’s products. Apple is purportedly planning to include this feature in a variety of devices, which could include its mixed reality headset, electric car, and other Internet of Things accessories.