Satellite Connectivity Might Be Coming to the New ‘Apple Watch Series 8’
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Apple has been dabbling in satellite communication networks for years, and it looks like we may soon see a payoff from all of its efforts.
Reports from last summer claimed that the iPhone 13 was getting the hardware needed for satellite connectivity. While that never materialized — and it’s not even clear if the hardware is there — Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman jumped in not long after to add that using satellite communications was very much on Apple’s roadmap — but not necessarily in the way that many thought.
Instead, Gurman said, Apple’s goal was to create an enhanced “Emergency SOS” capability that would allow iPhone users to summon help from anywhere on the planet, whether they have cellular communications or not.
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It’s unclear if the iPhone 13 had the hardware necessary to support this feature, but we suspect not. The earlier reports noted that the new frequencies being added to the iPhone 13 are used by Globalstar, which is primarily a satellite communications company, and appear to have jumped to the conclusion that these were for low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. However, Globalstar also handles private terrestrial 5G networks, which is what those new frequencies were really for.
Nevertheless, there have now been at least two independent reports suggesting that emergency satellite connectivity could be just around the corner, and now Gurman has heard that Apple plans to bring it to the Apple Watch too.
Apple Watch Satellite Communications
Gurman hinted at the possibility of satellite connectivity coming to the Apple Watch earlier this month when he reported on the new health sensors and features we can expect for the Series 8. At the time, he didn’t have a specific timeline on when it might arrive.
However, this week Gurman shared an update in his Power On newsletter suggesting that it could arrive as soon as the Series 8 this year, although it’s possible Apple may hold it back for the 2023 Series 9.
Since reporting that the iPhone is gaining the feature, I’ve heard that the Apple Watch is also destined to get that functionality—either this year or in 2023. Whether it’s on the iPhone or Apple Watch, the technology would provide an alternative to the Garmin inReach Explorer and SPOT, handheld satellite communicators with similar features. Mark Gurman
Gurman adds that Globalstar announced in February that it was reached a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars with an unnamed customer to power “continuous satellite services.” It’s also planning to buy 17 new satellites to power this feature. It’s not hard to imagine that Apple could be that customer.
While these satellite communication features wouldn’t be something that the average user would ever interact with, it’s easy to see how they could revolutionize the use of the Apple Watch as a lifesaving device.
For example, only a few weeks ago, we heard the tale of a snowboarder rescued from a crevasse in the alps who was very fortunate to still have enough of a cellular signal to be able to call for help.
At 10,000 feet up in the Swiss Alps, cellular connectivity is a gift, not something one should count on.
It’s sad to think that many people may have been stranded in an emergency with a perfectly functional iPhone or Apple Watch but no cellular connectivity to call for help. Satellite connectivity would solve that, allowing an Emergency SOS to be sent out from anywhere on the planet’s surface.
It would also be even more helpful on the Apple Watch. Not only that more likely to remain on your person in an emergency, but it also supports features like Fall Detection that can summon help even if you’re not conscious.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]