Ming-Chi Kuo says new iPhone 13 will support satellite communications

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Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that the “iPhone 13” will have the ability to use satellite communications, thanks to a customized baseband chip.

Ming-Chi Kuo, AppleInsider, has revealed that the Qualcomm X60 baseband chips that Apple expects to use in the iPhone 13 will be able to support low-earth orbit satellite communications. This is based on Qualcomm’s collaboration with Globalstar, which makes Globalstar the most likely partner in the effort.

Kuo writes that there are many possible scenarios for Apple’s cooperation with Globalstar in its business model. The simplest scenario is where the user’s operator has already teamed up with Globalstar. In this case, the user can use Globalstar’s satellite communications service directly on their iPhone 13 via the operator’s service.

It won’t be a first smartphone that supports satellite communications, but it will, if the report is correct. Kuo states that any other vendors who want satellite communication functions will need to wait for a year, or until 2022. They will then have to use Kuo’s X65 baseband chip.

It is not yet clear what Apple will do to the X60 in order to support satellite communications. It is also unclear what Apple will have to do for an antenna array required by the technology. This differs from LTE and 5G antennae. The majority of satellite phones look like the Nokia classic feature-phone design. They have a visible antenna and, in certain cases, other equipment to capture and relay the satellite signal.

Kuo believes this is Apple’s first venture into technology. “iPhone 13’s inclusion is expected to provide “innovative user experience that can be integrated into new products.” Kuo explains that an Apple Car with a head-mounted display and an Apple Car with wireless networking would benefit from the integration of satellite technology.

Apple will likely introduce the iPhone 13 range as part of its annual product refresh in the fall. Rumours have claimed that there are other camera changes beyond Sunday’s satellite communication report. These include a larger sensor resolution and bigger lenses. The Pro models will also get autofocus.

Apple’s decision on whether to keep the 3-camera and 2-camera Standard and Pro models or switch to a 4-camera system has been disputed. Meanwhile, LiDAR is said to be staying only on the Pro models for another year.

Also, according to Kuo, the “iPhone 13 Pro” models will add a new ultra-wide camera lens with autofocus, a feature that will apparently spread to the non-Pro models released in 2022.


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