The iPhone 13 will offer two-way communication with low Earth orbit satellites, according to a report from a reliable Apple analyst. If the prediction proves correct, making phone calls and exchanging texts via satellite connection will be possible with Apple’s next handset.
The leak comes from Ming-Chi Kuo from TF International Securities in a research note obtained by Cult of Mac.
“We predict that iPhone 13 hardware specifications could support low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications,” says Kuo. “If Apple enables the relevant software functions, iPhone 13 users can call and send messages via satellite when not within 4G/5G coverage.”
Satellites placed in in low Earth orbit, within a few hundred miles of the planet’s surface, can take advantage of high bandwidth and low latency. The Iridium phone system and Elon Musk’s nascent Starlink broadband internet service both utilize low Earth orbit satellites.
Kuo did not mention full internet access in his prediction, however — just calls and texts. Still, such a feature would be useful when traveling through remote areas. And it could be a lifesaver in emergency situations.
If true, built-in satellite communication is something no mainstream Android phone can match until 2022 at the earliest.
iPhone 13 + Qualcomm + Globalstar = satellite communication
Apple’s next handset will include a customized Qualcomm X60 baseband chip, according to Kuo. This will allow it to communicate with satellites.
A satellite provider will also be required, of course. “We believe that the LEO satellite communication service provider most likely to cooperate with Apple in terms of technology and service coverage is Globalstar,” said the analyst.
Obviously, access won‘t be free. But Kuo predicts terrestrial cellular companies will make agreements with Globalstar to share subscriber revenue.
We’ll likely find out in September if the TF International Securities analyst is correct. That’s when Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 13.