Every wednesday, AppleUnboxed lands in subscribers’ mailboxes. It’s an all-things-Apple guide to what’s going on with the world’s most fascinating company. Every weekend, I publish only one item from a previous newsletter.
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Oh, and all previous AppleUnboxed newsletters are available only to subscribers’ eyes, here on Forbes.
This week’s story was about a new (and somewhat thought-provoking) feature coming to the iPhone 13. You can read Gordon Kelly’s authoritative account of it here. But the story has gone a little further now, with more details from the trusted analyst Mark Gurman at Bloomberg.
So read on for an updated and expanded version of what appeared in this week’s newsletter (and your weekly pet photo treats at the bottom of this post).
AppleUnboxed: iPhone 13 includes satellite connection
Now it’s something no one saw coming. Just a few days ago, the trusted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo announced that the next iPhone will be able to send messages even if you are not near a cell tower or wifi. It’s pretty cool.
It does this by connecting to LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites. The iPhone’s modem enables a new radio technology that allows this connection. This is a remarkably emergency communication setup and extremely useful if you are in trouble and there is no cell coverage.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has now contributed to the topic several times, including in today’s Power On newsletter. He had not mentioned it before Ming-Chi Kuo did so, so it may be a feature Apple had been able to keep under wraps until now.
First, he said it will be used for two purposes, to contact relief workers and loved ones via the regular Messages app, where bubbles appear as gray instead of blue or green as they usually are.
The second purpose will be as a direct reporting mechanism for major emergencies such as plane crashes, it appears.
Now in the latest issue of his newsletter, he spelled things out in more detail. Here is the new information:
Select areas only
Although he does not specify which countries will have access to it, Gurman says, “The emergency services only work in areas without mobile coverage and only in select markets.”
It’s a guarantee that the United States will be a market, and Apple simply would not release it if it did not. But there are no more clues. After all, every single country has areas without mobile coverage.
Then comes the jaw drop:
Apple can launch its own satellites
Gurman says, “Apple envisions that it will eventually implement its own array of satellites to transfer data to devices, but that plan is probably years away from launch.”
Wow. It’s something. Would these satellites also offer GPS or similar information to enhance Apple Maps, perhaps? And would the plan be to offer more services such as phone calls and satellite data?
But it is not a satellite iPhone
As part of its coverage, Gurman states that there are no plans yet to use satellite technology for phone calls to areas without cell coverage. “The answer is a resounding no. It will not happen now, next year or at any time in the near future. ”
This makes sense. Apple’s relationship with phone networks around the world is highly integrated – look no further than the look of Verizon at the launch of the iPhone 12 to talk about 5G – so it would be difficult to ruin that relationship.
It will be a text service
As he had previously reported, emergency use of this capability will be limited to messages in the Messages app, which are displayed in gray, “allowing users to contact emergency services and close friends without a cell signal”. He adds that calls one day may be possible one day, but not now.
Gurman has previously said that while the hardware will be in the next iPhones, as expected in the coming weeks, the services associated with them will come later, most likely in 2022.
In addition, the user must be outdoors to connect to a satellite, and it may take 60 seconds or more to receive a signal. Plus, local laws will govern which satellites are available.
Lots of qualifications, that is, but it’s still a very cool addition to the iPhone’s capabilities.
What is not stated, but seems likely to me, is that since the modem is common to all iPhones in a particular release year, it is a service that will be available on all four models expected to be announced, not reserved for the Pro versions. .
The announcement of the next iPhone, along with AirPods 3 and Apple Watch Series 7, is coming soon. Check this next to the exact date I predict.
One more thing
Inspired by Dwight Silverman’s brilliant but now complete newsletter, this AppleUnboxed post features a weekly pet treat photo. Silverman used these to showcase smartphone photography, which is also my intention.
I like this photo for the sharpness of proximity, even though it was taken on the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s normal lens, not the telephoto. And the composition left me happy. I almost never get the dog to sit still long enough to frame things properly, but for once she agreed. This was a Live Photo, and Apple chose the best frame, I think. And although it is not a portrait feature image, the background is nicely blurred.
If you need to tempt once again, you can sign up for the newsletter here. I hope you will and I will do my best to make you feel worth it.
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