Hold on! Apple's iPhone 13 - illegal for 40% of the world's population due to satellite connectivity?!14
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
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 2: Another "solution" might be that Apple will ship iPhone 13 models without Qualcomm's X60 baseband chip for satellite connection in some of the countries where satellite phones are banned, illegal, or simply likely to cause trouble for the owner. That's especially crucial for India and China, which are important markets for Apple, but yet very strict on satellite phone use.
Option 3: As hinted above, another option is that like many new features, satellite calls/texts might be exclusive to the US at launch. This is going to be a pilot study for the domestic market, and while it's unfortunate that people in other parts of the world might not get it, it would be understandable, if Apple has to go with it. A big hint that this might be exactly what will happen is that Apple's satellite network partner for this venture is Globalstar.
What if satellite iPhones fall into the wrong hands?
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...
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.
We are extremely curious to see how Apple plans to handle these technical, political, and socio-cultural aspects of launching a mainstream smartphone that's capable of satellite connection.
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.