Ming-Chi Kuo shares some thoughts about the future of Apple’s iPhone 13
The TF International Securities analyst who has a long and active history of calling out Apple’s updates before they’re public said in a new investor note that he expects the next iPhone to feature a low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellite communications mode (via 9to5Mac). Send your messages or calls to outside space, and then wait for the message to return to you on ground.
This feature will allow users to use basic iPhone 13 features even when they are not within range of cellular towers. Kuo stated that the Apple customized Qualcomm X60 baseband modem chip, which supports satellite communications, will enable Kuo to create the LEO mode.
It is not clear which data and/or call features will be available in the theoretical LEO mode. The cost of using this feature is not yet known. This would be similar to roaming charges for cellular devices.
We have heard this before about Apple possibly turning to space in order to beam cell signals across the globe. A late 2019 report from Bloomberg suggested that such a move could happen, as of 2019, within the subsequent five years.
Details were still hazy at the time. Bloomberg reported that Apple was not sure how or to whom satellites would be used at the time. The project was not a complete sale for Apple, but the fact that Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed an interest in the possibility of making it happen with satellites makes the prospects more tangible.
LEO mode would be introduced for iPhone 13 at a moment when Apple’s rivals in tech are looking up. Furthest along is SpaceX; the company’s Starlink program has had a beta program up and running since late 2020. There were at least 1,500 Starlink satellites in orbit as of late June 2021 — a big number, but well short of the 10,000-plus that will likely be needed to maintain a robust network as more users sign up.
Amazon also has a plan for getting directly into the satellite communications game, dubbed Project Kuiper and first revealed in 2019. This one is not as advanced, though. Amazon announced a partnership with the United Launch Alliance in April that will see the first of its satellites ferried to orbit by Atlas V rockets, across nine separate launches. None of the satellites have yet been launched.
All of these factors have no direct impact on Apple’s plans. However, consumer tech is frequently influenced by trends. Apple’s anticipated leap to add satellite communication support to its devices immediately follows a larger shift led by industry leaders.
Apple is expected to reveal the iPhone 13 — which is also said to feature a high-refresh rate, always-on display — alongside other new product reveals and announcements sometime in September, as is the tradition at this point. It’s not known when exactly it will happen, although history suggests it could be in the coming weeks.
Publiated at Sun 29 August 2021, 20:09:44 (+0000).