The trend: Apple is a frontrunner in a race to deliver satellite connectivity to smartphones.
- Starting in November, Apple’s iPhone 14 will be able to send short distress messages and location data from remote areas in the US and Canada that lack cellular grid service, per The Wall Street Journal.
- The Emergency SOS via satellite feature provided through Globalstar Inc.’s satellite network will be free for two years.
- Last week, Huawei announced that its Mate 50 smartphones will be able to send short emergency messages.
- Earlier this month, a Google executive tweeted that the tech giant’s next version of Android will have satellite communication capability.
- Last month, SpaceX agreed to develop mobile satellite connectivity for T-Mobile phone plans.
- In July, Iridium Communications said it will develop its technology for smartphone use.
How we got here: Fierce competition among smartphone makers is driving new phone styles and features to keep consumers hungry for gadgets. Meanwhile, satellite providers are looking to ink deals that expand their client base as they compete with 5G and broadband.
- Apple has a strong footing in the emerging mobile satellite market. It struck an exclusive deal for 85% of Globalstar’s satellite capacity in 2019, per WSJ.
- Several new emergency features in the Apple Watch and iPhone, announced at Apple’s September event, are timely given increased interest in outdoor recreation post-pandemic and fears about natural disasters.
What’s next? Emergency messaging via satellite will likely expand to voice calls and eventually more compute-heavy functions for mass-market devices. It could help bolster edge computing and rural economic development globally.
- While emergency features might remain free, pay-per-use for smartphone satellite data could be a new revenue stream for the tech sector.
- The mobile satellite connections could raise more technical questions about 12 GHz frequency sharing and lead to an investigation of potential interference by the Federal Communications Commission.