iPhone 14 satellite features powered by Qualcomm modem

iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max include a new Emergency SOS feature via satellite connection, allowing users to get help even beyond cellular and Wi-Fi range. This feature will launch first in the United States and Canada, starting in November.

A Reuters report this weekend indicated that the satellite functions are enabled by a Qualcomm X65 modem in the phones. An Apple statement to Reuters also said custom Apple-designed radio frequency components and software also enable satellite function.

The Qualcomm X65 modem enables 5G cellular connectivity for phone calls and data, as well as a ‘band n53’ that allows the iPhone to communicate with satellites in the sky. In particular, Apple has partnered with satellite infrastructure managed by Globalstar.

Satellite SOS Distress Call is available when the user initiates an SOS Distress Call but cannot connect to a cell tower. In that case, the phone offers the option to connect to the satellite and send a short text message instead. Users need a clear view of the sky for the feature to work; iOS will instruct the user to align their device with overhead satellites.

If local emergency services can use text-based channels, the iPhone will send these messages directly over the satellite link. If not, Apple relay centers will receive the SOS message and call emergency services on your behalf.

This service is free for two years from November. Apple has not disclosed pricing plans for the satellite service after that free period is over. Country availability is initially limited to the United States and Canada.

It’s an open secret that Apple’s chip teams are currently working on an internal 5G modem with the goal of completely removing Qualcomm components from the iPhone, with the primary goals being energy efficiency (longer battery life) and reducing royalty payments to lower the unit cost margins of every iPhone sold.

However, making a modem is incredibly complicated, and many analysts remain skeptical that Apple will succeed. Apple hopes to replicate the success of its custom silicon investments for the A-series and M-series SoCs. The rumor mill consensus currently expects the first Apple modem to be ready for primetime in 2024.

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