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The iPhone 13 could have satellite connectivity

Finally a fun iPhone 13 rumor! If Apple holds to its traditional schedule we’re mere weeks away from a new iPhone, and until now the rumors have been slight and, dare I say boring. Yet noted Apple prognosticator and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is now claiming the iPhone 13 could have the ability to make satellite calls built right in, according to MacRumors.

In a note to investors, Kuo claims that the iPhone 13 will be able to connect directly to low earth orbit (or LEO) satellites thanks to a customized Qualcomm X60 baseband chip. LEO satellites are probably best known as the backbone of Elon Musks’ Starlink internet service which relies on satellites in a lower orbit to beam internet down to customers and avoid some of the common pitfalls of satellite internet, including high latency, and common blackouts.

But Starlink isn’t the only company using LEO satellites for connectivity. Hughesnet and OneWeb have combined forces to roll out a competitor to Starlink and Immarsat announced a new constellation intended to blend with terrestrial 5G networks for a more global solution. More crucial for this iPhone rumor is Globalstar, which saw its stock skyrocket earlier this year when Qualcomm announced its upcoming X65 chip would support Globalstar’s Band n53 tech. 3GPP had previously approved Band n53 as a 5G band.

If this rumor is true the X60 would likely be supporting another element of 5G, which is currently comprised of a whole mix of technologies, including the ultrafast but limited range millimeter-wave and the more widespread, but slower C-Band. LEO 5G would provide support in places that don’t yet have towers beaming down the other forms of 5G speed—particularly useful in many rural areas that often struggle to get 3G or 4G connectivity.

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What that means for battery life remains to be seen. There’s also the tree factor. Hopefully, the X60 chip in the iPhone 13 won’t be as susceptible to arboreal interference as a Starlink’s Dishy McFlatface.