Because of the introduction of 5G, Apple’s iPhone 12 has been a great sales success. Apple appears to want to maintain the trend by introducing another new radio technology to the iPhone this year. In an investor letter today, Ming-Chi Kuo stated that he expects the future iPhone 13 models to include a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite communication mode. That would enable an iPhone 13 user to send messages and make phone calls even outside typical 4G/5G cell tower coverage.
In a 2019 piece, Bloomberg first reported Apple’s experiments into employing satellite technology to beam data to iPhones. However, this is the first time we’ve heard the feature included in the iPhone 13 lineup in 2021.
Kuo speculates that LEO satellite connectivity used by the next Apple AR headset, the Apple Car, and other Internet-of-Things devices in the future.
According to Kuo, the iPhone 13 will employ a modified version of the Qualcomm X60 baseband modem processor. This chip will enable satellite communications.
It’s unclear whether sending messages and making phone calls over satellite would function with Apple services like iMessage and FaceTime or if Apple will be able to proxy satellite communications to regular cell towers on the other end. It is also unclear whether satellite features, such as GPS would be free or incur usage fees. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has garnered a lot of interest with the launch of Starlink satellites, which anticipated to offer its embryonic broadband service to almost anyplace on the planet. However, SpaceX is not the only business that wishes to operate a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit.
Apple expected to introduce the iPhone 13 lineup in September. The phones will be very similar to the current iPhone 12 family in screen size and physical factors. Upgrades to the camera systems, a high-refresh-rate display for the Pro models, and a smaller display notch are the anticipated new features. Today’s revelation about satellite features is undoubtedly the most intriguing thing to emerge from the rumored model for this year’s phones.
Meanwhile, rumors regarding the iPhone 14 are already circulating, with Ming-Chi Kuo, a respected Apple analyst, predicting that the iPhone 14 Pro Max (or whatever the largest model in Apple’s 2022 lineup is named) will cost $900, the lowest price ever for a large (6.7-inch) iPhone. It’s also likely that Apple will reduce the iPhone 13 in 2020, as other models like Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE and Google’s Pixel 5 did. The Samsung Galaxy S21, released in January, was similarly less expensive, starting at $200 less than its predecessor.