This iPhone feature cost $450 million, what is it for?


Like other digital giants, Apple sometimes buys smaller companies in order to acquire their technologies, or their know-how, to develop its future products. But it also happens that the firm invests in companies that allow it to improve its products, without making acquisitions.

For example, Apple has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Corning, the company that developed Ceramic Shield glass that protects iPhones from drops and scratches. This investment was made through a special fund, called the Advanced Manufacturing Fund, and intended to support the company’s American partners.

An investment of 450 million dollars for satellite communication

This week, the Cupertino company made official a new investment of 450 million dollars by its special fund, which made it possible to have a new functionality on the models of the iPhone 14 series. This new function at several hundred million dollars is satellite communication.

As a reminder, this was announced by Apple during the presentation of its latest iPhones, but it is not available at the moment. According to the press release, the investment made by Apple will finance the infrastructure necessary to provide the satellite communication function on the iPhone.

The majority of these funds were invested in the American company Globalstar, which provides the satellites used by the new function of the iPhone 14. Apple explains that the financial contribution will make it possible to improve the network of satellites of Globalstar, as well as the ground stations, so that this network can deliver the new service to iPhones. The firm also reveals that 300 Globalstar employees are working on supporting this feature.

In addition to having invested in Globalstar, the Cupertino company also had to order new antennas from a company called Cobham Satcom, for the ground stations.

Of course, we would also have to take into account Apple’s R&D costs to make its iPhones compatible with satellite communication.

Satellite communication on iPhone, how does it work?

In summary, on the iPhone 14 series models, when the user has no mobile data, no Wifi, no network for calls, he will still be able to send SOS (but no calls) to contact the services emergency, in case of problem. Unfortunately, for the moment, this novelty is only available in the United States (you can use it if you are traveling in the country of Uncle Sam).

iPhones communicate with satellites using Globalstar frequencies. Investments have been made and new antennas have been installed in order to increase the reliability of the system.

Once sent, the iPhone message is received by one of Globalstar’s low Earth orbit satellites. Then, the satellite sends this message back to one of the company’s ground stations. And it is from the station that the message is redirected to the appropriate emergency services.

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Soon on Android?

For the moment, it is not known if (and when) Apple intends to extend this functionality to Europe. But what is certain is that in the next few years, satellite communication will become a must-have for smartphones.

In China, Huawei already offers a similar function on its latest flagships. And in the United States, Elon Musk is working with a telephone operator so that smartphones on that operator’s network can communicate via satellites in the Starlink constellation. As for Google, it has already announced that it is developing the next version of Android (Android 14) so ​​that it can support a similar function.

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