- Apple is rumored to be adding new satellite communication capabilities to the iPhone 14 lineup, with some believing it to be a free service.
- The new feature could allow people to send emergency messages when no other connectivity option is available.
- Experts believe that people are unlikely to use the new feature often, but it could be an important insurance policy against cellular dead spots.
Apple is rumored to be adding new, non-cellular satellite communication features to the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, but experts suggest its usefulness could be limited.
Apple has yet to confirm the satellite communication feature, but the rumor mill is strong, and while it was expected to launch with iPhone 13 last year, the addition is now predicted to finally debut next week. Experts believe that most people are unlikely to use satellite capabilities regularly, but that doesn't mean that they won't come in handy for some people—particularly during emergency situations when other options aren't available.
"If the long-planned iPhone satellite features do indeed arrive this generation, expect them to be centered on emergency services like a feature to send short texts to emergency contacts or services," Apple analyst and Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman told Lifewire via direct message. "Another feature would allow users to report specific incidents—like car accidents, plane crashes or boating accidents—from areas with no cellular reception."
I think this is one of those insurance features that you hope to never need, but you will be grateful [you have].
An Important Addition
If Apple does bring satellite connectivity to this year's iPhone 14 lineup, experts believe that we should expect a feature that will be hugely beneficial in very specific situations, but not one that will change the way we use our iPhones in day-to-day use. "Even if the rumors are true, having the ability to trigger an emergency beacon or text alert is likely a niche use case," Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, told Lifewire via email. "In most instances, users will have a cellular connection, so could rely on that."
But it's the instances when a reliable cellular connection isn't available that experts believe this feature will be vital. TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, writing via Medium, believes that iPhone 14's satellite communication feature will be used exclusively during emergency situations. Bloomberg similarly reported that people may be able to contact first responders and report accidents, even without cellular coverage—something that current iPhones aren't capable of.
Satellite communications consultant Tim Farrar also expects Apple to enter the satellite market for the first time. Tweeting about a similar recent announcement made by T-Mobile and SpaceX, he concluded that "the only possible conclusion is that [the T-Mobile/SpaceX announcement] was designed to pre-empt next week's Apple announcement of their own free messaging service with Globalstar" before adding that the partnership between the two companies "should begin as soon as the new phone is released." The iPhone 14 lineup is expected to be announced during an event on September 7.
A Feature No One Hopes to Use
Similar to Apple Watch’s ECG and other proactive health-oriented features, is it possible that iPhone 14 satellite capabilities could be a rarely-used feature but an important one should the worst happen? People hope that their Apple Watch never warns them of a heart condition, but the feature has been shown to save lives when it does.
“I think this is one of those insurance features that you hope to never need, but you will be grateful [you have],” Carolina Milanesi, President & Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, told Lifewire via email. If indeed Apple does add such a feature to the iPhone 14 lineup, Milanesi and others believe it to be one that people are happy to have in reserve rather than one that they will actively make regular use of in their daily lives.
If that is the case, some experts believe Apple will need to work harder to make potential iPhone 14 buyers care about a feature they will rarely, if ever, use. “If this new feature does come to fruition, I’ll be very interested to see how Apple pitches it to consumers,” Wood added via email. He isn’t alone, with Milanesi also saying that she would be “curious how Apple is going to market it as a safety feature” if that is indeed what it plans to do.