After Ming-Chi Kuo’s post about the possibility that the iPhone 13 could communicate via satellite, there was a lot of fuss and doubt about it. While some analysts called the report incomplete or flawed, Mark Gurman denounced Apple’s plans to bring emergency communication to iPhones.
Communication yes, but only for emergencies
First of all, let’s put ourselves in context. Yesterday, famous analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issued a note to his investors explaining that Qualcomm chips for future iPhone 13s would be specially modified to support the n53 frequency from Globalstar, a satellite communications company. We later found out that it was a terrestrial frequency, which indicated an improvement in 5G rather than satellite communications.
While there may be some confusion over Apple’s moves that show the company is working on a satellite communications system, the truth is Ming-Chi Kuo was on the right track. A few hours ago, Mark Gurman posted in Bloomberg information about the company’s plans for the use of satellites in an emergency.
Two services with the same goal
According to the reporter, Apple is working on a communication system for iPhones via satellite, but only focused on emergencies. The first functionality resulting from this work is to send emergency SMS. It is a system with which a short message can be sent to emergency services and contacts without the need for mobile coverage.
The system will be integrated with the Messages application as a new communication protocol, in addition to SMS and iMessage. To easily distinguish them, the bubbles will be gray, instead of green or blue, and the length of the messages will have certain limits.
The second functionality will be to be able to call to report emergencies. The service will be able to collect the type of emergency that occurs, including whether it is cars, boats, airplanes or fire, as well as specific information about the situation. He will ask if it is necessary to inform the search and rescue services, if there is a suspicion of the use of weapons and if anyone is injured.
Then, this service will communicate with the official emergency services and will be able to provide the location of the person, his medical identifier as well as information extracted from the health application, such as age, allergies, etc. Finally, the service will inform emergency contacts so that they are aware of the situation.
A service with availability subject to regulation
As reported by Bloomberg, these services will not be available in all countries and will largely depend on local regulations and the location of the satellites. Connecting to the constellation of satellites can be somewhat complex, so future iPhones will incorporate a system that prompts users to walk in a specific direction to help the phone make the connection.
This service will require a specific modem to be able to connect to the satellites. Returning to yesterday’s Ming-Chi Kuo report, Gurman claims that Globalstar’s competitors are not working with Apple, but he is also not claiming that it is the chosen service provider.
Regarding availability, Gurman believes that “it is unlikely that [estas funcionalidades] be ready before next year ”, although the iPhone 13 may already“ have the necessary hardware for satellite communications ”. Being a function still under development, it can be modified or postponed without notice.
The possibility that using an iPhone, someone could report an emergency or call for help from anywhere on the planet is something very, very relevant. It looks like we’ll have to wait yet to see its final implementation, but it’s clear that while this is a feature we never want to have to use, having it will be very useful.
Pictures | SpaceX, camilo jimenez and Alexander Chatov