Kuo: iPhone 13 to get LEO satellite comms support — but maybe not

Iphone 12 5g
Iphone 12 5g (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • A new Ming-Chi Kuo report suggests iPhone 13 could get new LEO satellite support.
  • The feature would allow for phone calls and text messages to be sent without cellular signal.
  • It's been suggested that talk of satellites could be wrong thanks to translation issues.

A new investor note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that Apple is adding support for LEO satellite communications to the iPhone 13 models, but things might have been lost in translation.

According to the original report, iPhone 13 will gain support for the LEO satellite communications thanks to a customized version of the Qualcomm X60 modem that will power it. That would allow iPhones to communicate via satellites even when outside of cell tower range. The result would be the ability to make phone calls and send text messages without the need for a cellular connection.

However, it's been suggested that things might have gotten mixed up in translation, with PCMag's Sascha Segan pointing to Globalstar's 2.4GHz zone called b53/n53. He suggests that the customized Qualcomm modem inside iPhone 13 will allow it to connect to that zone rather than any satellites.

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The result would be a new ground-based LTE band rather than any iPhone connection to satellites, with Globalstar being the name that has caused confusion. It all makes sense, although we'll need to hang fire for clarification before we can be sure. It does seem unlikely that Apple could squeeze satellite communications into an iPhone without it leaking until a couple of weeks before it is due to be announced, however.

Satellite communications or not, iPhone 13 will still be the best iPhone Apple has ever sold. It isn't yet clear what the inclusion of b53/n53 could offer iPhone users, but hopefully we'll know soon enough.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.