As per the most recent report coming from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 satellite features will only be available in select markets. This is an insightful, yet vague reveal, so let’s try and elaborate on it. Would Apple’s satellite-connected iPhone 13 be available only in the US, or perhaps would it be optional according to the market? What if it’s illegal? Spoiler: Yes, it might be.
iPhone 13 satellite connection: Keeping you always connected in case of an emergency
- Of course, it’s going to be absolutely wonderful to have a satellite connection on your iPhone in case you decide to climb a mountain, sail in the open ocean, or simply find yourself in an emergency due to a natural disaster that limits cell service and Wi-Fi connectivity.
- Also, the iPhone 13’s satellite connection capabilities might be way more affordable than those of traditional satellite phones when it comes to plans and outgoing calls/texts. Of course, we are only speculating, but if satellite connectivity is about to reach smartphones (even if it’s for emergency calls/texts), it’s likely that Apple will bring the price of satellite communication down, which will be amazing for the end-user.
- The iPhone 13 would literally always connected. This has never happened before, so it’s a bigger deal than you might think. If you can’t rely on Wi-Fi, there’s 5G/4G; if you can’t rely on 5G, there are satellites. Again – remember, this feature is said to be for emergencies only – at least in the beginning. Furthermore, satellite connection isn’t nearly as fast as 5G or Wi-Fi, so you won’t be able to do much more than texting/calling.
iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 satellite connection: Potential challenges for Apple’s satphone plans
Back in 2018, Indian airport police seized four satellite phones from top German officials, who were on a trip. Use of satellite phones by foreigners is banned in India, especially after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008.
Is owning a satellite iPhone legal?
You might be wondering: “Why is Apple limiting satellite connection to just emergency texts/calls?” Well, for starters, Cupertino is probably testing the ground, before deciding to commit… fully. However, another, much better reason is that it might be… illegal.
- Burma (Myanmar)
- North Korea (What a shock!)
- Sri Lanka
- South Sudan
So, is there a solution? Probably. However, Tim Cook will be skating on thin ice…
Option 1: Perhaps Apple will have to make this feature optional. As of now, the only smartphone that can connect to satellites (Thuraya X5) lets you toggle the feature on/off just like 4G/5G or Wi-Fi. This still doesn’t make the iPhone a non-satellite phone though.
What if satellite iPhones fall into the wrong hands?
Satellite phones have been banned in several countries around the world after terrorist attacks.
If Apple were to open the satellite network for a wider variety of use case scenarios, another challenge might be potential abuse of the features, if the iPhones fall into the wrong hands. Now, disclaimer: this is very much theoretical, but terrorist organizations might be able to take advantage of a widespread satellite network of iPhones. The iPhone is a phone pretty much anyone can get ahold of. Therefore, Cupertino’s decision to limit satellite texts/calls to emergencies seems to be the right one.
In the end…
No one expected this, but the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 are going to be able to talk to satellites. Perhaps not until 2022 though…
The easiest way to find out if you are allowed to use a satellite phone or if your provider supports it as a feature (it often needs to be exclusively enabled on demand) is to contact your embassy in the foreign country where you plan to travel to, or just check government websites.
iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max are set to become official on September 14. According to Bloomberg, although Qualcomm’s modified X60 modem will indeed be in the iPhone 13, Apple might hold on until next year to actually enable satellite connectivity, when the iPhone 14 will become a thing as well. It’s another “future-proofing” step from Apple, and we aren’t surprised at all.