Smartphones today have become more than just phones, with fewer people using them for actual calls. But, of course, there will always be people that use these devices as communication endpoints, and those are more dependent on cellular network coverage than any other smartphone functionality. It is, however, still possible to make calls without a cell signal, and that might be one of the iPhone 13’s selling features, thanks to its rumored support for low-earth orbit or LEO satellite communications.
Phone calls, even those made through traditional landlines, work almost like magic. In reality, the process involves a lot of technologies that are sometimes so precariously connected that a problem in a single node can take the whole network down. There are, however, some alternative communication networks that don’t rely on cellular signals, like those using LEO satellites.
The famed Ming-chi Kuo predicts that this is exactly what the iPhone 13 will bring to the mainstream communication market. This will be thanks to a modification that Apple is expected to do with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X60 modem. While there can be many applications of LEO satellite communication support, the most immediate will probably be making calls and sending messages without cellular network coverage.
This technology isn’t new, of course, but it isn’t exactly easily available in the consumer market. Most satellite phones are large bricks with equally large antennas, so an iPhone 13 with similar functionality will be truly groundbreaking. Kuo does say, however, that such a function might be available in the Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 baseband chip next year.
The market analyst expects that Apple will partner with Globalstar, one of the biggest names in this particular field, to provide satellite communication support. Kuo also believes that this is just the tip of the iceberg, as LEO satellite communication could also find its way into Apple’s AR headset, smart car, and other future IoT products.