iPhone 13 tipped to feature ‘satellite mode’ for making calls without signal
Apple is likely to reveal the next version of the iPhone in September and there may be an interesting new feature added to the mix.
The upcoming iPhone 13 is tipped to feature a special chip on board that can communicate directly with satellites in low-Earth-orbit.
This means the phone could continue to make calls and send messages even without a traditional 4G or 5G signal from a nearby cell tower.
It’s believed Apple is developing this as a way of contacting the emergency services when phone signal isn’t available – such as if a user got lost in the woods during a hike.
According to a report in Bloomberg, Apple is tipped to partner with Globalstar – a satellite communications company – to enable it. The new iPhones would have a special chip, made by Qualcomm, that could talk directly to Globalstar’s network to effectively turn the iPhone 13 into a satellite phone.
Incidentally, shares in Globalstar surged 64% when this news came to light.
Apple itself has declined to comment on the speculation and others caution that although the hardware may be present in the upcoming iPhones, the actual feature may not become accessible until sometime in 2022.
Bloomberg explains that the satellite features would be split into two camps: Emergency Message via Satellite and a hotline of sorts for reporting on a crisis.
The former would be an additional protocol added to Apple’s Messages app (alongside traditional SMS and iMessage) that would let users jump on a satellite connection when there’s no other option available. Messages sent via satellite would be shorter in length and potentially only sendable to one other number – such as an emergency contact. In time, this could expand to voice calls as well.
The latter would be a way of reporting some form of crisis – a car accident, for example – directly to the emergency services. This would allow iPhone users to call in help even if there was no phone service available.
The Bloomberg report cautioned: ‘Both features are, of course, dependent on satellite availability and local regulations. They’re not designed to work in every country, and Apple has created a mechanism that will ask users to be outdoors and walk in a certain direction to help the iPhone connect to a satellite.’
Whether or not these reports turn out to be accurate remains to be seen. But it’s unlikely we’ll have too long to wait.
Apple usually reveals its new iPhone models in the first couple of weeks of September. So we may only have two or three weeks to wait to see if this satellite functionality turns out to be real.