Apple iPhone 14 series and Huawei Mate 50 series have introduced satellite connectivity to commercial smartphones for emergency purposes. Read on to find out what exactly it means.
Apple launched the iPhone 14 lineup on Wednesday and checked all the boxes of user expectations. While the company kept its major upgrades for the Pro models, emergency SOS via satellite is a feature that was introduced in all the phones — both base and Pro models.
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Apple, which says that it has worked for years on perfecting the feature, was this close to being the first company to introduce satellite communication, but Huawei beat the iPhone 14 to it — just one day before its launch.
“Huawei’s Mate 50 and Mate 50 Pro will be able to send short texts and utilise navigation thanks to China’s global BeiDou satellite network, allowing for communication in areas without cellular signal,” said a report by The Verge. Sadly, the Mate 50 series does not support 5G and only comes in a 4G version.
Since the US has banned Huawei, iPhone 14 will be the first device in the country to have that connectivity.
Apple has introduced satellite communication as a new emergency feature that will not replace regular cellular connectivity. Apple noted that the feature would only work when you are outdoors and have a clear view of the sky.
The feature combines custom components integrated with software to allow antennas to connect directly to a satellite, enabling messaging with emergency services when outside of cellular or Wi-Fi coverage.
Satellites are moving targets with low bandwidth, and it can take minutes for messages to get through, but Apple claims that a message should be sent in less than 15 seconds under ideal conditions. iPhone front-loads a few vital questions to assess the user’s situation and shows them where to point their phone to connect to a satellite.
This includes questions such as “What’s the emergency?,” “Who needs help?,” and “Is anyone injured?” Then, the initial questionnaire and follow-up messages are relayed to centres that can call for help on the user’s behalf. This also allows users to manually share their location over satellite with Find My when there is no cellular or Wi-Fi connection.
According to Universe Today, the satellite provider for Apple is Globalstar. It wasn’t specifically mentioned during the presentation, though. But Globalstar confirmed that it would allocate 85 percent of its current and future network capacity to support the Services.
Also Read: Apple Far Out Event Highlights: Watch Ultra, iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max released.
A few days before Apple's announcement, US service provider T-Mobile and SpaceX also announced that Starlink — SpaceX's satellite internet constellation that provides satellite Internet access coverage to 40 countries— will provide direct-to-phone connectivity for T-Mobile clients, possibly after 2023. This will obviously be limited to users in the US.
For iPhone 14, Emergency SOS via satellite will initially be available to users in the US and Canada in November, and the service will be free for two years. Whether or not the service will be extended to more countries and at what cost is still not clear. The Huawei Mate 50 series could be launched in India later this year and bring with it the hope of satellite connectivity.
First Published: IST