As noted by my “semi-retired” Apple World Today compadre, Steve Sande, it’s interesting that Apple’s invitation for its Sept. 7 event seems to show “stars” and is titled “Far out.”
Apple will hold a special media event that Wednesday, at 10 a.m. (Pacific) in the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California.The shindig will almost certainly see the premiere of the iPhone 14 line-up, the Apple Watch Series 8, and the AirPods Pro 2. But what if we can expect more: namely, future integration of the iPhone with SpaceX’s Starlink V2. Yesterday it was announced that it would launch next year and will “transmit direct to mobile phones, eliminating dead zones worldwide.”
Starlink V2 and satellites
SpaceX founder Elon Musk and CEO of T-Mobile Mike Sievert teamed up to make the announcement. Both companies will be creating a new network to provide the service. Starlink’s satellites will broadcast it using a mid-band spectrum from T-mobile — the second largest wireless carrier in the U.S. — throughout the nation. T-Mobile said this service would provide coverage wherever you can see the sky.
Starlink V2 will allow people to send MMS, text, and some messaging apps when they have sky’s clear view. Musk said that Starlink V2 will launch next year and eliminate dead zones worldwide by transmitting directly to mobiles. The connectivity will be 2-4 megabits for one zone. He tweeted it would be great for voice calls and texts but not for high bandwidth.
“This partnership is the end of mobile dead zones,” Sievert said at a Thursday news conference. “This is important for safety, it is important for contact with the people we love, and it is important for people in rural areas.”
Musk said the satellite service was meant to supplement existing networks, not replace them. SpaceX is also looking to partner with other carriers around the globe to make the service available outside the United States, he said. In March, SpaceX provided Ukraine with access to its Starlink satellites to prevent mass internet outages following Russia’s invasion.
While T-Mobile isn’t ready to announce a product yet, Sievert said the wireless provider expects to include satellite-enabled nationwide coverage in its most popular mobile plans for free. For the low-cost plans that don’t include it, he said “our aspiration is to charge a monthly service fee that will be far less than the monthly service fees charged by today’s satellite connectivity services.”
Sievert said T-Mobile and SpaceX plan to reach out to messaging app providers, such as Apple with its iMessage service, to include them in the service “right out the gate.”
Perhaps that will be announced at the “Far out” event. And perhaps Apple will announce that it will be a third partner in the project to bring satellite connectivity to the iPhone across all its wireless providers.
The iPhone and satellite rumors
In the April 25 edition of his Power On newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said Apple is still working on satellite features for at least some models of the upcoming iPhone 14.
Last year analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the iPhone 13 would feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity. This will allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage.
He said the iPhone 13 would likely pack a customized Qualcomm X60 baseband chip that supports satellite communications. Qualcomm announced its upcoming X65 chip would support Globalstar’s Band n53 tech. He was wrong, but it’s possible that the iPhone 14 will be the first mainstream smartphone model to add this functionality.
Here’s what Gurman says about the iPhone 14 and satellite connectivity: To be clear: The iPhone won’t be getting the ability to make calls over satellite networks. Instead, the feature is designed to report emergencies or send short texts to emergency contacts when out of cellular service range.