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Rumored iPhone 13 satellite communication feature may not work until next year

By Sanuj Bhatia August 31, 2021, 1:15 am

Earlier this week, we learned that Apple has been working to bring some sort of satellite communication system to the iPhone 13 series. Popular Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo revealed that the next-gen iPhone could have hardware that would allow it to connect to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites which would allow users to make calls/send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage. A new report from Bloomberg confirms that Apple is working on “at least two related emergency features” for the future iPhones that would work with the satellite network.

However, it doesn’t seem the upcoming iPhone 13 series will have these features. The report says that even though the next iPhone “could” have the hardware needed for satellite communications, “the features are unlikely to be ready before next year.” The report even says the feature could be scrapped before seeing the light of the day.


Nonetheless, the report details what kind of solutions Apple is looking into. The first one is named “Emergency Message via Satellite” which will let users text emergency services when there’s no cell signal available. “The feature will be integrated into the Messages app as a third protocol — alongside the standard SMS and iMessage — and appear with gray message bubbles instead of green or blue,” says the report. The second feature will be a tool to report emergencies, such as plane crashes and sinking ships that will also use the satellite network.

The texting via satellite has been named “Stewie” inside Apple. The report says the messages will be restricted to a shorter length and would bypass the DND mode of the receiver’s phone.

One planned design will let a user send the message by typing “Emergency SOS” where they would usually input a contact name. In addition to delivering texts, the service may eventually be able to handle some phone calls too.

The second feature, the tool to report emergencies, “is focused on letting users report a crisis,” says the report. The tool would ask users what kind of emergency would they like to report, followed by questions if search and rescue services are needed, if there is suspicious behavior or weapons involved, and if a person has suffered a traumatic injury.

When reaching emergency services, the feature can send a user’s location and Medical ID, a virtual card in the Health app with a list of a user’s medical history, age, medications, and information like height and weight. It can also a notify a user’s emergency contacts, typically a person’s family, friends or doctors.

It seems Apple is going to restrict satellite communication to only “crisis scenarios.” The reports over the weekend suggested Apple will make satellite calls — that would bypass the cellular networks/carriers — from an iPhone a new feature, but that isn’t the case. Furthermore, the feature is likely to be US exclusive at launch. A global rollout would need regulatory approval in each region, unsurprisingly.

Nonetheless, contacting emergency services without the need for a cellular network seems life-saving, and could prove invaluable in a number of scenarios. What are your thoughts on the rumors of the iPhone 13 featuring a satellite communication system? Let us know in the comments section below!

Source: Bloomberg


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