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Apple said to be mulling LEO connectivity for iPhones

The word on the street is that US gadget giant Apple is planning to introduce support for low earth orbit satellites in future iPhones.

This is very much an internet rumour-mill thing at this stage, with the catalyst being a research note from Ming-Chi Kuo, who is known for anticipating new Apple initiatives with moderate accuracy. MacRumors had a look at the note and reported that the LEO support is expected to arrive in the iPhone 13, thanks to a customized Qualcomm X60 baseband chip. So, hilariously, it looks like Apple’s reliance on its most loathed supplier will continue for the foreseeable future.

Unusually for Apple this may mean it’s among the first to market for a new hardware feature, wince there is apparently a better Qualcomm LEO chip in the pipeline that won’t be available until next year. The appeal of LEO connectivity, of course, is as a fall-back in cellular notspots. While there will be some of these in the US, you would think this initiative has mainly developing markets in mind.

A subsequent Bloomberg report (via the Verge because it’s paywalled) suggests the functionality will only be allocated to emergency calls but, once the chip is on board, it will presumably be just a matter of an OTA software update to grant it more general availability. Bloomberg also reckons even that capability won’t immediately be available even in phones with the chip installed, so Apple seems to be taking baby steps into the LEO scene. However, the symbolism of the world’s most influential smartphone maker committing to LEO connectivity will presumably catalyze adoption of the tech across the whole sector.


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