This year’s iPhone 13 may have one feature that sets it apart from every smartphone out there. According to noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the device will support satellite connectivity, allowing users to make calls using satellite networks. This is a feature that’s usually reserved for most specialized devices.
Kuo, in a note to investors, said the iPhone 13 will be able to connect to low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites directly, using a customized version of the Qualcomm X60 modem. It appears Apple is aligning itself with technological progress from companies such as SpaceX, led by billionaire Elon Musk, which have been preparing to launch LEO satellites at various locations. Bharti Airtel-backed OneWeb is also planning similar services in future.
LEO satellites have been touted as a preferred method for providing connectivity to remote areas in future. Companies such as Starlink, OneWeb, GlobalStar and many more have been promising affordable Internet in such areas. In fact, Qualcomm had announced support for Globalstar’s n53 bands on its newest Snapdragon X65 modem in February.
“Qualcomm’s support of Band n53 represents a significant milestone in our efforts to commercialize our spectrum in the US and all other countries where we have or expect to obtain terrestrial authority,” Kyle Pickens, vice president, strategy, at GlobalStar said in an investor note at the time.
The global LEO satellite market size was valued at $3118.4 million in 2020, and is expected to almost triple by the end of 2026, to $11,320 million. Apple’s iPhones are mostly seen as consumer products, which have been commoditized like most other smartphones today. However, by supporting satellite connectivity, the company could expand its reach into specialized use-cases in remote areas, etc.
That said, satellite connectivity may not be a feature that’s available in every country. Apple will have to seek additional clearances from governments and meet standards, which may differ from one country to the next. Live Mint