Apple iPhone 13 rumors go sky-high with satellite connection

person holding smartphone
Globalstar is getting a lot of attention today for a reported connection to the iPhone 13. (Getty Images)

With Apple’s latest iPhone just around the corner, reports suggest that it will include support for satellite communications, which consumers could use when terrestrial-based 4G and 5G are not available. The one getting most of the glory: Globalstar, the once-embattled satellite company.

Globalstar shares shot up more than 40% at one point today. Shares in satellite companies Iridium and AST SpaceMobile also rose, more than 9% and 4%, respectively. 

One report tracks to TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who, as MacRumors explained, discussed how the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which could allow iPhone 13 users to make calls and send messages.

The MacRumors report notes that the upcoming iPhone 13 supposedly features a customized Qualcomm X60 baseband chip that supports satellite communications; other smartphone brands reportedly are waiting until 2022 for the X65 baseband chip for turning on satellite communications functionality.

While there are ample ways to support LEO connectivity in handsets, the bottom line is: The “simplest scenario” for providing LEO communications to users is if network operators work with Globalstar, according to the Kuo-based report.

That raised some eyebrows, rightly so.

Globalstar declined to comment to Fierce, citing long-standing company policy not to comment on rumors implicating Globalstar.

Iridium also declined to address any specific reports. However, its spokesperson shared the following statement: “LEO satellite communication is a hot trend right now. As you might imagine, with Iridium being at the forefront of L-band personal communications we are always looking at ways to embed more and more personal devices, such as smartphones or other mass market consumer devices, with Iridium Connected technology.”

The idea of smartphones using satellite technology to connect consumers dates back quite a few years, or even decades. There was a time when Globalstar, which went through a lengthy and highly contested FCC approval process, was asked to prove its technology would work in iPhones. That was way back when the iPhone 6 was an item.

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PCMag’s Sascha Segan tracked down the latest iPhone 13 reports and ties it to a swathe of terrestrial spectrum that Globalstar sought to use to enhance LTE. Here’s the Twitter thread. There's even a connection to a language translation error to boot.

iPhone 13 anticipation

The jury is out on what the inclusion of satellite would do to an iPhone – a really big antenna and a big power drain or a great way to connect in the middle of nowhere? — and/or if it’s going to happen this year. But one thing is (more) certain: The next iPhone will entice more consumers to jump onto 5G. (Big revelation, right?)

Meanwhile, analysts at Morgan Stanley are bullish on the new iPhone 13, noting that the new iPhone will be unveiled around September 14, with pre-sales starting on September 17 and new phones becoming available around September 24. That would put the iPhone launch timing in its normal pattern after a delayed launched last year.

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While it’s not expected to be a major redesign of the phone, it will mark only the second year of a 5G iPhone release. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty forecasts 136 million global iPhone shipments for the second half of 2021, a 12% increase year over year and a 36% jump over the first half of 2021.

"U.S. smartphone volumes have already picked up in recent quarters boosted by reopening and some aggressive offers, particularly for existing customers looking to upgrade to a new device,” Morgan Stanley said in its report today.