iPhone 14 might offer free texting via satellite

iPhone 14 might offer free texting via satellite

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Globalstar satellites
iPhone 13 will reportedly be able to use satellites to exchange texts.
Photo: Globalstar

iPhone 14 users may never be out of contact as long as they’re outdoors. Apple’s upcoming handset will be able to exchange texts via satellites in low-Earth orbit, according to an expert in satellite communications. And the service will be free.

Apple might even have hinted about this feature in the invite to its September 7 event during which the iPhone 14 is expected to be announced.

Never be out of touch with rumored iPhone 14 satellite capabilities

Satellites placed in low Earth orbit, within a few hundred miles of the planet’s surface, can communicate with handsets on the ground. These can be used to provide service to people who are out of range of cellular towers.

Globalstar owns a constellation of LEO satellites, and Apple is about to announce that the next iPhone will be able to access them, according to Tim Farrar, a consultant in satellite communications. And he predicts the service will be free.

It’ll be only for text messages, though. “The service will be limited just to two-way texting – no voice calls or photos unless they invest in a new multi-billion dollar constellation,” said Farrar. Still, it will be a tremendous boon for hikers, boaters and anyone traveling through the remote sections of the United States without cell service.

In 2021, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo pointed out that the wireless modem in the iPhone 13 is also capable of accessing LEO satellites, so it’s possible users of both the iPhone 14 and Apple’s previous model will be able to exchange texts via satellite.

The announcement might come during Apple’s September 7 event. This has a star-studded “far out” theme, which could be a clue that satellite communications are on the agenda.

Rival plan from T-Mobile and SpaceX

On Thursday, SpaceX and T-Mobile announced their own intentions to bring iPhone connectivity everywhere in the U.S. using satellites.

But this is more of a goal than a plan. “Given how many half-formed concepts were put forward, the only possible conclusion is that this was designed to pre-empt next week’s Apple announcement of their own free messaging service with Globalstar,” said Farrar.