Science & Technology

Apple’s new iPhones will get satellite connectivity 

The tech giant presented the iPhone 14 lineup and the newest smartwatches – satellite connectivity is among the biggest technological changes

iPhone satellite

Apple’s new iPhones will get satellite connectivity. Source: apple.com

Apple unveiled the iPhone 14 lineup as well as updates to its Apple Watch and AirPods Pro on Wednesday at the company’s annual September event. Although the tech giant didn’t raise prices for the new smartphone models, it introduced a few technological updates to iPhone 14 phones. One of the main technological updates is satellite connectivity for sending emergency messages in areas not covered by cellular towers.

The new service, dubbed Emergency SOS via satellite, enables iPhone 14 users to send special low-bandwidth text messages to emergency services through space-based relays. The satellite service will launch in November in the U.S. and Canada. Apple will offer the service for free for two years. 

Although various smartphones have long utilised the U.S. Global Positioning System’s network of satellites for navigation, technical limitations have kept consumer-grade devices from reaching space-borne communications networks. The power required to send a strong signal to space has restricted the market offerings to heavy, expensive satellite phones from Iridium Communications Inc. and Globalstar Inc.

However, new satellite constellations with Earth-hugging orbits have made the technology more accessible. At the same time, smartphones still need proper microchips and antennas capable of sending signals to space. Apple said it spent years working on the new technology, which uses an app to tell users to which sky part they should point the device.

Globalstar has already confirmed that it will supply the new Apple service using spectrum licenses it holds. The company has international licenses to send space-to-ground signals over 11.5 megahertz of wireless spectrum.

Such a partnership could allow Apple to eventually offer its satellite service outside of North America. Meanwhile, other tech companies pursuing satellite-phone services could face the need for individual government approvals in each country depending on the satellite provider they choose.

We have recently reported that Starlink satellites launched next year will connect directly to T-Mobile phones. In that case, the service will work with T-Mobile’s exclusive licensed spectrum. However, both T-Mobile and Starlink should find arrangements with compatible providers in other countries to expand the service reach out of the U.S. 

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Nina Bobro

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Nina is passionate about financial technologies and environmental issues, reporting on the industry news and the most exciting projects that build their offerings around the intersection of fintech and sustainability.