The iPhone 13 is likely to be announced this week and one of the rumored features is satellite connectivity. Here’s what that could mean for travelers.
New iPhone Likely Announced Tuesday, September 14
Travel technology is important and our phones are central to the travel experience. Apple has sent out invitations to its annual fall event announcing new products. This is the time of year for which new iPhones are usually announced. Last year, the event was delayed due to COVID019 and moved from an in-person event to online and pre-recorded which will be the case this year.
During the announcement (which appears to be promoting streaming content as a central component) new products are typically announced with lower prices for prior models. It’s suspected that the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, and iPhone 13 mini will be announced.
During these announcements, prior models like the iPhone 12 Mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max typically drop in price, so if you’re close to a phone refresh, it’s in your best interest to wait.
Some of the announcements aren’t particularly dramatic, analysts suspect that Apple plans to offer the following:
- Larger camera
- Camera module updates (likely a better, more capable camera set and possibly additional lens)
- 120Hz refresh rate
- Larger batteries or improved battery life
New noise-canceling AirPod Pro versions (third iteration) are suspected to be announced alongside the phone as is a new edition of the iPad Pro.
iOS 15 Features
Many have pointed to the iPhone after this model (iPhone 14) as the more significant update based on prior supply chain indications. Usually, these small updates aren’t that big of a deal, a camera bump here, a faster processor there – but no significant form factor alterations, but iOS 15 is a significant improvement for travelers.
For those who are not part of the Apple Beta Testing or Developer programs, the new operating system offers translation features that are built into the software. There is also a camera feature that works as an OCR scanner, allowing users to extract text from an image which is really helpful, especially when traveling abroad or trying to look up information you’ve seen on a trip.
Satellite Phone Capability, Rumored Incomplete
Rumors suggest that Apple will begin including satellite communication capabilities in its devices. I’ll get to why that’s significant in the next section. Apple analyst, Ming Chi Kuo, indicated that the latest iPhone (13) will have a Qualcomm chip that will be able to communicate with LEO satellite services. Low Earth Orbit satellites offer coverage where 4G and 5G may not be available.
SpaceX is a future option, but the current most likely carrier is GlobalStar. The day the news was mentioned in the press, GlobalStar stock rose 41%without being officially connected to the technology. Kuo, who has been 76.5% accurate with his predictions, noted that satellite service wouldn’t be available outside of emergency calls. However, whether it’s enabled beyond that in the future is anyone’s guess.
What Satellite Capable iPhones Could Mean For Travelers
There are three key areas to which the new capabilities enhance a traveler’s experience.
Ensuring that your phone will always be available in an emergency is a key safety feature. I once had trouble aboard a boat (it was a small boat in Thailand that was sinking) and it would have been impossible to reach cellular towers, however, satellite services could have helped if we were unable to make it back to land.
Remote areas, mountainous regions, or places that have experienced a natural disaster and don’t have tower services would offer a safety net for iPhone users in those areas.
This could leave to cost savings. Satellite phones are expensive as are connectivity services. Having it built into your next iPhone will save those who have bought and carried these devices a lot of money.
In the future, however, if one were to have a subscription to SpaceX’s StarLink service (now available for home broadband in many areas around the world), one might be able to access their StarLink account and not have to pay for mobile service when traveling abroad at all.
There’s no need to swap SIM cards, no need to purchase an extra plan, it’s built-in. If the aforementioned StarLink option is available as an add-on or an integrated option into its subscription plans, there’s just one carrier to pay, one network to connect with. That makes life easier for customers and might be a compelling reason for some travelers to switch to StarLink at home and the iPhone for mobile service.
A rumor came out last week, claiming that Apple is adding a limited and incomplete satellite offering to its next-generation phones to be announced next week. It won’t be ready for consumers to switch to satellite-only coverage yet and will be emergency-only if confirmed at the announcement on September 14th. For a number of reasons, this technology adds value to travelers inside of a device many already carry.
What do you think? Have you carried a “Sat Phone” in the past? Have you seen where you might be able to utilize one?