There seems to be a trend with the new generation of smartphones: some models can communicate with satellites. The Huawei Mate 50 Pro should be able to send satellite messages, the Apple iPhone 14 can send emergency calls. Meanwhile, Tesla and Starlink boss Elon Musk is promising satellite internet for everyone via second-generation Starlink satellites.
We want to know what the trend is. Will we use satellites more frequently for communication in the future, or is the technology really only suitable for emergencies? To find out, we took a closer look at the three satellite offerings, because there are quite a few differences.
The iPhone 14 with satellite emergency call
With Apple’s new iPhone 14, satellite functionality is limited to emergency text messages, which can be sent via technology. However, Apple does not reveal technical details or which satellites are controlled. An Apple blog post simply says:
“This feature combines special components that are deeply integrated into the software, allowing the antennas to connect directly to a satellite. It allows you to contact 911 when iPhone is out of mobile or Wi-Fi coverage.
Voice calls or even normal video calling or texting are not included here. According to Apple, the feature is only for emergency calls. Additionally, iPhone 14 owners can manually set their location using “Where is?” » share by satellite. However, this only makes sense if there is no mobile or WLAN connection.
To do this, you must have a clear view of the sky. So if you’re inside a building or a tree is blocking your view, you won’t be able to connect. If the sky is clear, iPhone shows you how to hold it to connect. The feature will be available to customers in the US and Canada starting in November.
Huawei with the Mate 50 in China
Chinese manufacturer Huawei has also introduced satellite connectivity for its latest smartphone, the Mate 50 Pro. The smartphone is said to be accessing BeiDou’s Chinese satellite network. This should allow users to text even if they don’t have an internet connection.
We are also not talking about voice or video telephony at Huawei. Unlike the iPhone, it appears that Huawei customers with the Mate 50 can access the satellite network for news at any time, not just in emergency situations. However, the smartphone will only appear in the Chinese market for the time being.
Elon Musk and T-Mobile
Where there is new technology, Elon Musk is rarely far away. As part of a collaboration between SpaceX and T-Mobile, the two companies aim to bring satellite internet to as many people as possible. At an event, Musk and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert demonstrated the service together.
The centerpiece are the second-generation Starlink satellites, which SpaceX wants to send into space so the service can be operational next year. The new satellites should be able to use T-Mobile’s 5G midrange spectrum and thus be able to communicate with smartphones.
This is also one of the big differences with the offers from Apple and Huawei. Both initially installed the necessary technology exclusively in the latest of their smartphones. Musk, however, announced that no special equipment is required for SpaceX and T-Mobile service. Satellites should be able to connect to current smartphones of all stripes. However, the two CEOs have yet to reveal exactly how this is supposed to work.
At the moment, we don’t know what “up-to-date” means and what technical requirements a smartphone must meet to use the service. However, the service is apparently not limited to SMS or emergency texts. Musk said users have 2-4 Mbps available per mobile zone. It would be good for texting and voice calls. If there aren’t many people in a moving area, even a video is possible, Musk said. He left open whether that meant research or video calling.
You can watch the entire event here:
Will satellite technology be the next big thing?
At the moment, the technology is still very young and has only just been introduced in the first smartphones or services. Also, it seems that the functionality is very limited. Only emergency SMS are possible with Apple, SMS with Huawei, Elon Musk talks about videos.
In the presentation, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said he hopes that sooner or later satellites will also be able to transmit high-speed Internet. So it seems at least technically possible that they also send internet to smartphones, like Satlink satellites already do to receivers.
The next question, of course, is that of usefulness. Who really needs the service? In most cases and in most places we have a fast internet connection and we can make phone calls or send texts, even without satellite.
The offer is therefore particularly relevant for people who often travel to areas where reception is not available. It can be remote hiking trails, the desert, or even the middle of the ocean. Even areas with less fast internet coverage than in Germany can benefit from email or satellite internet.
I don’t think satellite internet and texting will be a big thing that everyone needs. However, the technology has its uses. These are emergency calls in remote areas and communication options for people who live far from normal internet reception and cell phones.
Cover image: Adobe Stock