New iPhone may also be a satellite communicator

Boyd

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Interesting rumor here about the iPhone 13 (which is expected in September).

"The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo."

If true, it might be better than what Garmin offers in their InReach satellite communicators, maybe without having to pay any additional fees.

"Kuo explained that the "simplest scenario" for providing LEO connectivity to users is if individual network operators work with Globalstar. This means that customers of a partner network operator could use Globalstar's satellite communication service on the ‌iPhone 13‌ directly through their network operator with no additional contracts or payments required."


The article also says that Android phones are expected to have similar capabilities next year. Note that there's a lot of skepticism in the article comments however. Apple has not set a date to release the new iPhone, but most people are expecting it mid-September, so we should know more about this soon.
 
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Boyd

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Works really well with my Macs and all the movies/music I have bought from Apple. But I got a couple inexpensive Android rugged phones to test my maps and actually think they are very cool. If a phone itself has a rugged shell you don't need to add any kind of case, which keeps it smaller. This one is a great size for a GPS with a 5" screen. But just a cheap phone (~$130 IIRC) so the screen isn't as bright as better phones, the camera isn't so good, etc.

ulefone.jpg
 
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Boyd

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Not so fast.... :D

"A report over the weekend from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that the iPhone 13 would include low earth orbit satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages without 4G and 5G coverage, but further analysis has indicated that this suggestion is incorrect and unlikely. According to Bloomberg, when Apple does implement satellite connectivity, it will be limited to "crisis scenarios" and will not be an alternative to cellular networks that allows for widespread texting and calling."

 

Boyd

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Looks like this is finally coming. It appears to be similar to the features of Garmin InReach devices (which they acquired from DeLorme).

"Emergency Satellite Features

With a feature that was initially rumored for the iPhone 13 lineup, the Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 modem in the ‌iPhone 14‌ lineup is expected to facilitate a number of satellite-based emergency features to allow users to send messages in emergency situations and report major emergencies in locations where there is no cellular coverage.

Specifically, Emergency Message via satellite will allow users to text emergency services and contacts using a satellite network when there is no cellular or WiFi signal available. It will purportedly be a new communications protocol alongside SMS and iMessage, will show gray message bubbles, and message length will be restricted. Another feature will let users report major emergencies like plane crashes and fires using satellite communication."


 
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Boyd

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This could be bad news for Garmin. They paid a lot of money a few years ago to acquire DeLorme, primarily for their satellite communication technology. Now it looks like it will soon be available on everyone's cell phone.
 

Boyd

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Apple's event is still in progress right now and they have announced this feature as expected. Pretty impressive, here are some highlights from the MacRumors live event blog:

11:00 am Emergencies don't always happen when it's convenient. Satellite connectivity...

11:00 am Your iPhone can connect you with the help you need when you're off the grid.

11:01 am Hold your phone and it finds a satellite so you can communicate with rescuers and share location. "Emergency SOS via Satellite."

sat1.jpg


11:03 am Send and receive enough information to get emergency help. Standard protocols aren't designed for this. Custom short-text compression algorithm to reduce the size of messages by a factor of 3. Take less than 15 seconds to send a message if you have a clear view of the sky.

11:03 am Custom components and specific software so iPhone 14 antennas can connect to the satellite. Tells you where to point your phone to connect and stay connected as the satellite moves.

11:04 am Relay centers can call emergency services if local centers can't accept text messages.

11:04 am Can be used in casual, less-dire circumstances. Find My app can be used to share location via satellite.

11:05 am This is such an essential part of the iPhone experience, included free for 2 years with iPhone 14 in US and Canada. Launches in November.

11:06 am The easy accessibility of this satellite service could be a game changer for many backwoods explorers and remote search-and-rescue agencies trying to find lost people.
 

stiltzkin

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I was looking through the footnotes to see if they mention which satellite network they use to provide coverage but they don't seem to specify. There is this quote:
Since satellites are moving rapidly through space, iPhone will show you where to point to maintain your connection — and avoid obstructions such as mountains and heavy foliage.
That would seem to rule out geosynchronous networks like Inmarsat and imply that they are using a low earth orbit network - the most likely one would be Iridium.
 
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Boyd

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That is what the Garmin inReach devices use.

"if necessary, trigger an SOS to a 24/7 staffed global emergency response coordination center via the 100% global Iridium® satellite network."


But they are bulky devices with big protruding antennas. Will be very interesting to see performance comparisons to a sleek device like an iPhone. This might be a bad day for Garmin, Apple is claiming a 2000-nit display for the iPhone 14, that is really bright (my iPhone 12 Pro Max is only 800-nits). Would definitely make the iPhone more appealing as a GPS.

And they introduced a new Apple Watch that analysts are saying directly targets Garmin's watches while undercutting their price (I'm not interested in smart watches though)

 
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stiltzkin

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Actually, maybe I am wrong - a report from Bloomberg last year cited people "familiar with the matter" as saying that it was not going to be a deal with Iridium, but rather Globalstar. Of course, things could have changed since then as well.

I bought a family member an inReach Mini a few years ago to give them coverage on a wilderness camping trip and I wasn't too pleased with it. The default settings did not update their location on a regular basis and SMS to the device was not allowed by default, either, if I remember correctly. So they were completely out of reach for a couple of days, defeating the purpose of the thing. We assumed these features would be functional out of the box and they were not. To make matters worse, at the end of the trip, the device was completely destroyed after plugging it once into a phone charger that was a Qualcomm Quick Charge charger, rather than a standard phone charger.
 
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Boyd

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"(Reuters) -Apple Inc on Wednesday selected Globalstar Inc as its partner for a feature that would allow iPhone 14 users to send emergency messages from remote locations.

The tech giant said it was dedicating $450 million from its advanced manufacturing fund toward satellite infrastructure to support the feature. GlobalStar will receive the majority of the funding, but the iPhone maker did not specify which other players will receive the rest and in what form.

While Apple will pay for 95% of the approved capital expenditure for the new Globalstar satellites needed to support the service, Globalstar said it would still need to raise additional debt to construct and deploy the satellites."


 
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Boyd

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I'm sure the company will be fine, remember, they make very expensive, specialized marine and aviation devices plus a whole range of fitness-related products. But it seems pretty certain smartphones have cut deeply into their automotive and handheld GPS devices. The fact that they have discontinued most of their touchscreen handhelds would support that.

And now, you might expect somebody to think twice about buying an $800 Montana 700 the size of a brick with a 5" screen and lousy camera when for just a little more you can get a smartphone with satellite capability, impressive camera, screen bigger than 6" and many different GPS apps to choose from.

[edit]Turns out that you can get the base iPhone 14 for the same price as the Montana ($800). ;)
 
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Boyd

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"None of the new iPhone 14 devices sport increased prices relative to their iPhone 13 counterparts, Wednesday’s event showed, despite many analysts expecting the company to increase prices on the higher-end offerings.

The iPhone 14 sticks with a $799 starting price, the iPhone 14 Pro begins at $999 and the iPhone 14 Pro Max begins at $1,099. Prices had been the real unknown going into Wednesday afternoon’s event."


 
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