iPhone 13 series could come with low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity that will allow users to make calls and send messages without requiring cellular coverage, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reportedly predicted in a note to investors. The next-generation iPhone lineup is said to have hardware ready to support communication via LEO satellites in areas where standard 4G or 5G coverage isn't available. The iPhone 13 models may include a customised chip to support new communication experience. Apple is said to be working with American satellite company Globalstar that operates a low LEO satellite constellation for low-speed data communication and satellite phone.
As reported by MacRumors, Kuo in his note to investors said that if enabled with the relevant software features, the iPhone 13 models will allow users to make voice calls and send text messages without requiring a 4G or 5G cellular connection. The new iPhone lineup is said to have a customised Qualcomm X60 baseband chip to support communication through LEO satellites.
Qualcomm is reportedly working with Globalstar to offer satellite communication connectivity over the n53 band on mobile devices using its X65 chip. However, the iPhone 13 family appear to get a similar experience through the X60 modem.
Kuo suggested that the iPhone 13 users would be able to communicate over LEO satellites with no additional contracts or payments required. Network operators, however, may need to work with Globalstar to enable LEO satellite communication.
LEO satellite communications may be available alongside millimetre wave (mmWave) and sub-6GHz 5G connectivity on the iPhone 13 models.
Kuo believes that Apple may expand LEO satellite communications beyond the iPhone 13 lineup and would provide its experience on its anticipated mixed-reality headset, electric vehicle, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices in the future.
Apple seems to have had satellite communications on its radar for some time as a report from Bloomberg in 2019 suggested a secret team created by the company working on satellites. It would help bring a distinctive edge over time.
It is unclear at this moment that whether Apple would offer LEO satellite communication connectivity for regular voice calls and messaging or it would just be limited to its FaceTime and iMessage services. The new experience may also not be available to global markets as individual telecom operators need to work with the satellite company to enable communications without their traditional cellular connectivity.
That said, Apple is speculated to launch the iPhone 13 series that would include the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and the iPhone 13 mini later this month — as early as September 14 if we believe a recent report, although there is no official announcement as yet.