Apple has introduced the novel feature of satellite connectivity in its newly launched iPhone 14.

Releasing their new line-up of products on Friday, the iPhone maker noted that using their latest model of iPhones, users will be able to connect to satellites to send emergency messages even if there is no Wi-Fi or cellular data connection. Outfitted with a Qualcomm chip enabling the handset to talk with satellites, in addition to other custom design features, the ability of the iPhone to connect with satellites will be the new model’s biggest feature, say experts.

The move incidentally comes at a time when satellite broadband companies foray into the market, even as there is a lack of mainstream devices that can directly connect to satellite connectivity services.

Getting future ready

Apple’s satellite feature is only available in the United States and Canadian markets at present, which are incidentally the key markets for Elon Musk’s Starlink and Sunil Bharti Mittal-backed OneWeb. From the India perspective, OneWeb is emerging to be a key player, which is likely to offer low earth orbit satellite broadband connectivity in the future.

The Department of Telecommunications has commenced licensing clearances for both OneWeb and Reliance Jio’s joint venture with SES for LEO/MEO broadband connectivity. Other ventures which can potentially enter the Indian market include the Canadian company Telesat, Jeff Bezos-backed Project Kuiper as well as Starlink. After Musk’s initial bid to assess the Indian demand for the venture was met with resistance from certain operators, Starlink has tempered down its India operations.

Apple’s move to introduce satellite connectivity will be incorporated into the phone’s safety features as well, such as a Satellite enabled emergency SOS. “The entire iPhone 14 lineup introduces groundbreaking safety capabilities that can provide emergency assistance when it matters most. With a new dual-core accelerometer capable of detecting G-force measurements of up to 256Gs and a new high dynamic range gyroscope, crash detection on iPhone can now detect a severe car crash and automatically dial emergency services when a user is unconscious or unable to reach their iPhone,” noted the press note.

Going by the nature of the use cases of satellite connectivity discussed in the press note, it is clear that this new feature will not support satellite broadband-type connectivity. Experts note, however, that this feature could be the first step in the direction of making those services mainstream.

Key hurdle

The lack of availability of a handset ecosystem is going to be one of the key hurdles in the adoption of satellite broadband or connectivity amongst end users, according to experts. The current technology only allows end users to access satellite connectivity if it is captured by a user terminal and transmitted to users through Wi-Fi hotspots. The current iteration of satellite phones are large bulky installations that will not be in common use.

Faisal Kawoosa, Chief Analyst and Founder of TechArc, noted, “The industry expects Apple to push the envelope of innovation in handset technology, and each year Apple introduces a key area of innovation. This year, bringing satellite connectivity to a mainstream handset is the biggest innovation by Apple.”