The iPhone 14 sets the stage for one of the industry’s biggest trends in 2023

The next time you need to text when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, regardless of your device, you can look to the sky where low-altitude satellites can help send you an SOS.

Last year, Apple became the first tech company to bring new satellite text capabilities to its devices. iPhone 14 such as an emergency call system. The idea is pretty simple: point your phone at the sky, align it with an overhead satellite, and send a message to the authorities. You can even send GPS data.

Today, other companies are about to embark on the adventure.

“I think 2023 will definitely be the year of mobile satellite connectivity”Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techsponential research firm, said. “Everybody gets into it. Everybody does it differently.”

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as adding a satellite text app and an extra satellite radio to the phone. Low Earth orbit satellite systems, like mobile phone and internet systems, are expensive to operate and maintain. Apple said it would give iPhone owners free access to emergency services for two years after buying their device, but did not say what would happen after that. Other satellite messaging systems have not yet launched and will apparently charge users for this feature.

The usefulness of this technology is undeniable.. We have already heard stories of people whose lives were saved thanks to it. The question is whether people are willing to pay for it. If not, will sending SMS via satellite become another fad like 3D television?

Currently, satellite technology in our phones is reserved for emergencies and expensive flagship smartphones like Apple’s iPhone 14. 1019€. Therefore, this technology is just an accessory that most phone owners will not be able to use for a while. Those who can use it will never find themselves in a dead-end, signal-free situation where the feature would come in handy – a group that IDC research director Nabila Popal is part of. “I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have cell service”– said Mrs. Popal.

Nabila Popal does not think the presence of this feature will encourage consumers to buy one phone over the other. It will certainly appeal to backcountry hikers, desert racers and solo truckers who plan to venture beyond cellular networks. But for everyone not a big enough feature for them to rush.

Rather, it’s just one more service in the arsenal of modern smartphones, which bring together many other technologies that we used to have to carry separately in our bags, such as cameras and portable video game consoles.

For the Snapdragon Satellite feature, Qualcomm chose satellite communications provider Iridium, a constellation of 66 orbiting satellites that provide global coverage. iridium

Current status of satellite texts

Satellite phones have been around for decades. we see in movies like Under siege, Steven Seagal’s classic military thriller, when someone has to make a call from the middle of the ocean. The satellite phone also played an important role in getting people off the dinosaur-infested island. Jurassic Park III.

“Where is the phone? Find the phone!”, screams paleontologist Alan Grant, who almost slips off the boat and into the river during a spinosaurus attack.

The reality is not so interesting, but this solution can be useful just the same. It uses networks of dozens of satellites that orbit the Earth every 90 minutes to transmit phone signals to the ground. It was the first of these systems iridiumbegan service in 1998. Many other satellite networks have survived by providing connectivity for frequent flyers, but this prospect has only recently become popular after SpaceX took up the idea of ​​worldwide internet coverage through its Starlink program.

There are telephone radios “Be powerful enough that we can integrate a satellite connection into the phone without the need for an external antenna”Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Anshel Sag said.

Among the main smartphone manufacturers, Apple was the first with the iPhone 14 line. The company partnered with GlobalStar, which has limited coverage in the United States, Europe, Australia and some regions of America. From the south. Apple is only enabling the feature in a few countries on those continents, and it only works for urgent text messages sent abroad, but the company has promised that new iPhone 14 owners will benefit from two years of service included with the purchase of the phone.

At the beginning of the month Qualcomm revealed a new feature to be integrated into Android phones that will allow users to send and receive messages via satellites. It uses the Iridium network, and Qualcomm claims it will have worldwide coverage, which is more than what Apple’s services say.

The service called Snapdragon satellite, will be for emergencies only to begin with, but eventually will likely allow data usage as part of the premium service. It is not yet available and will be included in the phones that are launched Second half of 2023 Companies using Qualcomm’s latest high-end chips, though the company is leaving it up to mobile manufacturers to decide whether they want to integrate the service into their phones or charge for the privilege. That leaves a lot of unknowns.

There are also smaller players with their own niche devices Bullitt, announced at CES 2023 a Motorola-branded rugged phone powered by a MediaTek chip, which will be available in the first quarter of 2023 for an undisclosed price. Bullitt promises two-way messaging via satellite via communications partner Skylo, which leases time in existing satellite constellations. Huawei however, the day before Apple’s iPhone 14 launch, it launched its Mate 50 series phones with satellite messaging via China’s BeiDou satellite network.

According to analysts, everyone runs. Apple could easily add this feature to its subscription services. Operators can use it to sweeten the offer of the most expensive subscriptions, betting that the most persistent subscribers are willing to pay more for convenience. “Between the Gobi Desert, Death Valley or the Adirondacks, it’s hard to overstate the importance of telling someone you’re out of gas.”Techsponential’s Greengart said.

iPhone 14 showing a text conversation with emergency dispatchers

Apple’s Emergency SOS feature text message interface. Kevin Heinz/CNET

Is it a good idea to be the new trend?

Analysts generally view the last two years of the 5G wireless transition as disappointing, not least because coverage has been spotty and speeds are sometimes as slow as the 4G LTE service we’ve been using for years.

You can still send SMS via satellite Harder than 5Gespecially since it depends on the presence of satellites and the still unexpressed pressure, the fact that many people send requests for help through them.

Still, early signs look promising. At CES 2023, Qualcomm took journalists outside Las Vegas to test out the Snapdragon Satellite feature, and it worked. Patrick Holland, editor CNET.comTested and found Apple’s Emergency SOS feature on the iPhone 14 that worked. In fact, thanks to the demo mode in the phone settings, anyone can try it without sending an urgent message.

It looks like the next step: using satellites to boost mobile networks and keep people connected. Although most people will never have the misfortune of needing it, this feature provides a safety net that helps mobile users who venture outside of coverage areas or disaster survivors after mobile networks fail.

Some iPhone 14 owners have reportedly been saved by this feature, including a man in Alaska who was traveling on a snowmobile above the Arctic Circle. In another case, a couple ran down a deep canyon in the Los Angeles forest and used an iPhone to call for help. It was possible to save them within 30 minutes. Without the iPhone’s satellite messaging feature, emergency services would not be contacted and “No one knew to look for them”Los Angeles County Sheriff Sergeant John Gilbert informed about it Los Angeles Times.

Soon, many smartphones will be able to call for help, whether you’ve taken a wrong turn in the wild or been attacked by dinosaurs on a remote island. article adapted from CNET France

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