iPhone 13 tipped to feature ‘satellite mode’ for making calls without signal

Iphone12 is seen at iSpot inside shopping mall in Krakow, Poland on August 26, 2021. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The iPhone 12, released last year, was the first iPhone to feature 5G connectivity (Getty)

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.

Finally a fun iPhone 13 rumor! If Apple holds to its traditional schedule we?re mere weeks away from a new iPhone, and until now the rumors have been slight and, dare I say boring. Yet noted Apple prognosticator and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is now claiming the iPhone 13 could have the ability to make satellite calls built right in,In a note to investors, Kuo claims that the iPhone 13 will be able to connect directly to low earth orbit (or LEO) satellites thanks to a customized Qualcomm X60 baseband chip. LEO satellites are probably best known as the backbone of Elon Musk?s Starlink internet service which relies on satellites in a lower orbit to beam internet down to customers and avoid some of the common pitfalls of satellite internet, including high latency, and common blackouts. But Starlink isn?t the only company using LEO satellites for connectivity. Hughesnet and OneWeb have combined forces to roll out a competitor to Starlink and Immarsat announced a new constellation intended to blend with terrestrial 5G networks for a more global solution. More crucial for this iPhone rumor is Globalstar, which saw its stock skyrocket earlier this year when Qualcomm announced its upcoming X65 chip would support Globalstar?s Band n53 tech. 3GPP had previously approved Band n53 as a 5G band.
The iPhone 13 may be able to communicate directly with a satellite when a traditional phone signal isn’t available (Credits: Lorin Rhaney)

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.

With the prevalence of new IoT applications, satellite connectivity is emerging as the communication option-of-choice for businesses that need to receive and manage data from always-on assets. Finally a fun iPhone 13 rumor! If Apple holds to its traditional schedule we?re mere weeks away from a new iPhone, and until now the rumors have been slight and, dare I say boring. Yet noted Apple prognosticator and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is now claiming the iPhone 13 could have the ability to make satellite calls built right in, In a note to investors, Kuo claims that the iPhone 13 will be able to connect directly to low earth orbit (or LEO) satellites thanks to a customized Qualcomm X60 baseband chip. LEO satellites are probably best known as the backbone of Elon Musk?s Starlink internet service which relies on satellites in a lower orbit to beam internet down to customers and avoid some of the common pitfalls of satellite internet, including high latency, and common
Satellite communications company Globalstar is believed to be involved and shares in the company skyrocketed as a result (Twitter/Globalstar)

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.

Finally a fun iPhone 13 rumor! If Apple holds to its traditional schedule we?re mere weeks away from a new iPhone, and until now the rumors have been slight and, dare I say boring. Yet noted Apple prognosticator and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is now claiming the iPhone 13 could have the ability to make satellite calls built right in,In a note to investors, Kuo claims that the iPhone 13 will be able to connect directly to low earth orbit (or LEO) satellites thanks to a customized Qualcomm X60 baseband chip. LEO satellites are probably best known as the backbone of Elon Musk?s Starlink internet service which relies on satellites in a lower orbit to beam internet down to customers and avoid some of the common pitfalls of satellite internet, including high latency, and common blackouts. But Starlink isn?t the only company using LEO satellites for connectivity. Hughesnet and OneWeb have combined forces to roll out a competitor to Starlink and Immarsat announced a new constellation intended to blend with terrestrial 5G networks for a more global solution. More crucial for this iPhone rumor is Globalstar, which saw its stock skyrocket earlier this year when Qualcomm announced its upcoming X65 chip would support Globalstar?s Band n53 tech. 3GPP had previously approved Band n53 as a 5G band.
Globalstar is just one of the companies providing satellite services from far above the Earth (Credits: Lorin Rhaney)

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.

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