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Apple Expands Satellite Messaging Capabilities With iOS 18

Apple Expands Satellite Messaging Capabilities With iOS 18

Apple Expanding Satellite Messaging

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Apple is expanding its satellite messaging capabilities on the iPhone. The new iOS 18 update will extend availability beyond emergency messaging, making satellite messages an option when cellular and Wi-Fi connections are unavailable.

Apple announced this update on June 10 as part of its iOS 18 release. However, it is only applicable to phones that already support emergency satellite messaging, which includes the iPhone 14 and later models.

In the announcement on Monday, Apple stated that this expansion uses the same technology as Emergency SOS via satellite. When users are out of cellular range, the Messages app will automatically prompt them to connect to the nearest satellite. This will enable iPhone users to send and receive texts, emojis, and tapbacks over iMessage and SMS.

Messages sent via satellite will maintain the same end-to-end encryption as regular iMessages.

Apple was the first phone manufacturer to introduce satellite connectivity to standard phones with the iPhone 14 in 2022. To facilitate the satellite-to-cell connection, Apple designed and built custom components, specific software, and algorithms allowing iPhone 14 antennas to connect to satellite frequencies. Additionally, Apple developed ground infrastructure to relay data packets from satellites to emergency services.

Apple partners with Globalstar for its satellite connectivity component. Globalstar is currently updating its satellite constellation with manufacturer MDA, which will support Apple's satellite connectivity. Globalstar's leadership recently confirmed that the constellation is on schedule to launch in 2025.

Apple won Via Satellite’s Satellite Technology of the Year award in 2022 for its emergency messaging via satellite.

Since Apple introduced its satellite-to-cell service, the market has seen several updates as more carriers and devices pursue satellite connectivity for standard phones. SpaceX is now testing direct-to-cell Starlink satellites in partnership with T-Mobile. While Android has not made any major satellite announcements, reports indicate that T-Mobile customers using the Android 15 beta can see their eligibility for satellite messaging.

Additionally, Verizon recently announced a $100 million deal with AST SpaceMobile for satellite direct-to-cellular service for its customers. Both Verizon and AT&T are working with AST SpaceMobile, although the company has not yet launched the satellites needed to operate the service.

References

Jewett, R. (2024, June 13). Apple expands satellite messaging capabilities with IOS 18. Via Satellite. https://www.satellitetoday.com/connectivity/2024/06/11/apple-expands-satellite-messaging-capabilities-with-ios-18/

 

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