The iPhone 13 had satellite capabilities, but Apple lacked a business partner

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Rumors of Apple adding satellite communications support to the iPhone 14 were backed by Ming-Chi Kuo’s claim that Apple has completed hardware development for the feature in the iPhone 13.

SpaceX and T-Mobile’s partnership to bring satellite internet to cell phones fueled rumors that Apple would offer something similar for the iPhone. According to well-connected TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple has already been working on the technology to make this possible.

in one Middle Post from Kuo on the iPhone 14 satellite communications support rumors, Kuo claims to have learned that Apple had “already completed the hardware development of satellite communications in the iPhone 13”. This seems to line up with rumors that the iPhone 12 and later models could use the communications technology.

Apple didn’t implement the feature in the iPhone 13, however, as it hadn’t partnered with a service provider.

“The lack of support is because the business model was not negotiated,” says Kuo.

The support may still be in the iPhone 14, with Kuo adding that Apple has completed hardware testing for the feature ahead of mass production. For the iPhone 14, satellite communications will reportedly provide emergency SMS and voice services rather than a general service.

The analyst warns that the launch of the service depends on “whether Apple and the operator can agree on a business model”. Ultimately, Kuo admits that it’s hard to predict when Apple will actually roll out the feature, but adds, “I think it will eventually happen.”

Kuo cites MediaTek’s demonstration of 5G smartphone hardware used for satellite communications, as well as Huawei’s Sept. 6 media event for the Mate 50 with potential satellite-based emergency texting capabilities, as evidence that Apple needs to move on to offer satellite services to consumers.

As for the satellite communications partner, Kuo believes Globalstar is the most likely candidate. In the satellite communications market, companies like Globalstar have “the highest barriers to entry,” which Kuo says should draw investors’ attention.

In April, a report on satellite communications potentially being added to the Apple Watch alongside the iPhone mentioned Globalstar as the most likely partner for Apple. Globalstar reached an agreement in February to purchase 17 new satellites for “continuous satellite services” for a potential unnamed customer believed to be Apple.

The point of adding satellite communications is to eliminate cellular blackspots for iPhone users. In the event of a natural disaster or geopolitical unrest where towers may be damaged or rendered inoperable, satellite communications will continue to function as a lifeline.

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