Qualcomm and Apple team up to allow iPhone 14 line to reach for the sky

Perhaps not as exciting to the average consumer as the Dynamic Island appears to be, Apple added satellite connectivity to all four iPhone 14 models. The feature will allow users to send out emergency messages even when they are out of cellular or Wi-Fi range. While this writer is guilty of this too, perhaps we should be more excited about satellite connectivity than how Apple made the notch useful.

So what chips did Apple add to the iPhone 14 series to make satellite connectivity possible? Citing a breakdown of the iPhone 14 Pro Max conducted by iFixit, and a statement from Apple, Reuters revealed that the Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 modem chip does double duty on the phones. Not only does the chip help iPhone 14 series users connect with 5G signals, but it also works with band n53. The latter is the radio band used by Globalstar satellites.

Apple reserved a large percentage of satellite provider Globalstar’s capacity

Earlier this year, in a deal typical of Apple, the company agreed to take up to 85% of Globalstar’s satellite transmission capacity for the iPhone 14’s emergency satellite messaging system.
Yesterday, Apple told Reuters that the new models also sport proprietary Apple hardware and software to help the satellite messaging feature do its job. “iPhone 14 includes custom radio frequency components, and new software designed entirely by Apple, that together enables Emergency SOS via satellite on new iPhone 14 models,” the tech giant said.
To use the new feature, hold your iPhone 14 unit as you would normally hold the device making sure it isn’t in a pocket or backpack. You don’t have to hold it up to the sky. Make sure that you are outdoors with a clear view of the sky and the horizon. Apple wants you to watch out for trees since those with “light foliage” can slow down the signals and those with “dense foliage” can block it completely.

Also capable of blocking satellite signals are hills or mountains, canyons, and tall structures. And if you need to turn left or right, directions on your iPhone’s screen will tell you what to do. Once you’re connected to a satellite, your handset will maintain this connection even if the screen is locked.

Apple suggests that in an emergency, you should first try to call for help. If you can’t get a call to go through, tap on Emergency Text via Satellite. You’ll be asked some questions about the emergency. Your message is sent to an emergency dispatch center where the appropriate help is ordered.

Emergency SOS via Satellite will launch in November following an update to iOS 16.

Apple and Qualcomm will continue to be partners for the foreseeable future

Interestingly, Apple was planning to design its own modem chip and use it in 80% of the 2023 iPhone handsets. But Qualcomm put the kibosh on these plans thanks to a couple of its patents. So as we wrote back in July, “Qualcomm will now supply Apple with 100% of the 5G modems for the 2023 iPhone 15 line leaving Apple with a bad taste in its mouth.”

Keep in mind that Apple spent $1 billion, a large sum for Apple to spend on a single acquisition, to purchase Intel’s smartphone modem business. Additionally, after Apple reached a settlement with Qualcomm allowing all legal action between the pair to be dropped, it was assumed that Apple would continue to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 5G modem chips for a few years while designing its in-house component.

Right now, Qualcomm is sitting in the catbird’s seat. Unless Apple can discover a way around the aforementioned patents, Qualcomm will continue to supply Apple with 5G modems for the iPhone for the foreseeable future. It’s widely believed that Qualcomm delivers the best 5G modems for smartphones.

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