Report: iPhone 13's satellite tech will only work in specific instances like disasters

Iphone 13 Bronze
Iphone 13 Bronze (Image credit: EverythingApplePro)

What you need to know

  • Apple's iPhone 13 is rumored to come with satellite technology inside.
  • A new report says the tech will only work in some markets, and at specific times — like disasters.
  • iPhone 13 won't support calls via satellite.

Recent rumors have Apple getting ready to launch iPhone 13 with new LEO satellite communications capabilities and a new report offers more details on what that will, and will not bring to the table.

According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman via the weekly Power On newsletter, iPhone 13 will have the technology required for talking to satellites — but it will be reserved for use when cellular coverage isn't available. And even then, says Gurman, it will only be available in specific markets. Specifically, Gurman says we should expect the new communication method to be used during emergencies and disasters — like plane crashes.

After nearly five years exploring how it could work with satellites, Apple is gearing up for its first related launch: emergency features for the iPhone. Apple is working on at least two approaches: transmitting short emergency texts and sending SOS distress signals for crises, like plane crashes or sinking ships, in remote areas.

Gurman also points out that while some had hoped to make phone calls using satellites, that isn't going to be the case at all.

Some have asked me if these new features mean that the iPhone can be used as a satellite phone and have the ability to make calls anywhere in the world without cellular coverage. The answer is a big no. That's not happening now, next year, or anytime in the near future.

The report goes on to say that Apple is even considering launching its own satellites, although that is likely a long way from taking off.

Apple's iPhone 13 might not even get the satellite features on day one, either. It's thought that Apple could be adding the hardware now so that it can be enabled via a software update at some point in the future.

Satellite communications or not, iPhone 13 will be the best iPhone yet. With new camera capabilities, smaller notch, and rumored 120Hz screen, all eyes will be on the iPhone 13 announcement that is likely to take place later this month.

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.