In five years, Apple iPhone and iPad users might be able to receive online content on their phone directly via satellite and bypass their wireless carrier. According to Bloomberg, the company has a secret team involving 12 engineers currently working on such a project. Sources cited by Bloomberg caution that the project is in its early stages and could still be dropped. But with company CEO Tim Cook taking an interest in the project, it is clear that satellite delivery of online content is high on Apple's to-do list.
Besides using satellites to beam the internet directly to iPhone units, Apple could be looking into the use of satellite technology to provide iPhone owners with improved navigation and mapping capabilities. It is unclear whether the company plans on developing its own satellites, which would be a rather costly endeavor, or will use equipment on the ground to send data obtained by a satellite and send it to iPhones and iPads.
With this project, Apple might finally start to cut the carriers out of the equation which is something Steve Jobs had hoped to accomplish
the company didn't have the expertise on a network level. But using satellites might be a different story. However, this won't be easy. "The lessons of prior failures like Iridium, Globalstar and Teledesic are that it’s really hard to find a viable business plan for multibillion-dollar satellite communications projects," said satellite expert Tim Farrar, a principal at TMF associates. But Apple must feel confident that it can turn a buck with this technology. Apple isn't the only tech company looking at the sky; Amazon plans on deploying more than 3,000 satellites that will first be sent into space in 2021. In a regulatory filing, Amazon said that it hoped to connect "tens of millions of unserved and underserved consumers and businesses in the United States and around the globe."The project might not be limited to Apple's mobile devices and could actually be a workaround allowing Apple to become a wireless operator. This would allow the company to take on the carriers worldwide. While this was something that the late Steve Jobs was hoping to accomplish, back in 2016 Tim Cook said that
Some have noticed that Apple is looking for software and hardware engineers that have worked on designing components for communications equipment. Pair that with recent hires made by Apple of people with experience in the aerospace and wireless data delivery industries and it all starts to become a little clearer. The team working on the project is led by aerospace engineers Michael Trela and John Fenwick. The pair worked on a satellite imaging firm that was eventually sold to Google five years ago and they ended up running Google’s satellite and spacecraft operations before leaving for Apple in 2017. After spending 18 months examining whether Apple could benefit from satellite technology, the team has started work on making this a reality. Both Trela and Fenwick report to Apple's iPhone engineering group.
Apple's work on the use of satellites to deliver content to mobile devices is one of several special projects that the company is reportedly working on. Virtual reality and augmented reality headsets are said to be in the works with launches expected in 2021 and 2022 respectively. Bloomberg also mentions that Apple continues to work on technology for the Apple Watch that will allow the timepiece to provide non-invasive blood glucose readings for diabetics. This is a project that we have mentioned from time-to-time. And the company is also planning to design its own modem chips which will allow it to replace Qualcomm. Even though Apple spent $1 billion to purchase Intel's smartphone modem business earlier this year, it will still be several years before an Apple-designed modem chip is found inside the iPhone.