There was an excellent deal of initial excitement over what was initially presumed to be a feature debuting on the iPhone 13. After all, who wouldn’t want the power to form calls or send messages even without a cellular network connection? Subsequent insider tips, however, doused cold water thereon by setting expectations on what this support for LEO (Low-Earth Orbit) satellites can and can’t do. Additional information is now putting even more limits on where these emergency features are going to be available and, more importantly, when.
On further analysis, it had been really illusion that Apple would allow unrestricted calls via satellite networks on iPhones. It might have definitely upset the company’s network partners, to not mention the mobile network market. It might have also been expensive for Apple and its customers, as any satellite phone user would be ready to attest.
Instead, that satellite connectivity feature are going to be limited to emergency purposes, but even then, it might have further limitations on its own. All that’s certain now is that satellite communication will be used for sending emergency messages and SOS alerts, with emergency calls still up for discussion. You’d even have to steer outside first to be ready to establish a reference to a passing LEO satellite.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman now adds further restrictions on this feature, reiterating that it might be limited only to certain markets and areas without cellular coverage. That’s not exactly surprising since the utilization of satellite networks is regulated differently in several countries. A bit like new radio technologies in iPhones or new health sensors in Apple Watches, Apple would need to first get each country’s approval before rolling out the feature.
Apple definitely has time because, contrary to earlier rumors, the hardware for this feature isn’t ready yet. It isn’t ready for creating calls anywhere, whether it’s next year or within the near future. Ideally, Apple will deploy its own LEO satellites to serve its iPhone customers, but that’s further into the longer term .