Sorry: The iPhone 13 probably won’t connect to satellites

A smartphone connectivity revolution may be upon us, and I’m not talking about 5G.

In fact, 5G is a bit of a mirage — or, at least, it doesn’t offer what the public thinks it does. If you buy a 5G-enabled phone, it won’t connect to 5G networks unless you find yourself in a rare urban space within range of a 5G base station without the obstructions that limit its access. And even if you are within range, your phone won’t kick over to 5G mode unless you’re doing something super intense. Also: For some people using some carriers in some circumstances, available 4G is actually faster than 5G.

It’s complicated. But the bottom line is that for most users, 99% of the time they spend on their 5G phone will take place over 4G networks.

Satellite connectivity is a bit of a mirage, too. The worst thing about satellite phones is the very high price of a satellite account, and the high price of phone calls and other services. The other downside is that you can’t use satellite phones indoors. So hardly anyone has a satellite phone or mobile satellite service. It’s just not practical for most people.

But the big news that hit today: Apple’s next iPhone could actually be a satellite phone.

Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a solid track record of predicting Apple products and features, said recently in a letter to investors that Apple’s iPhone 13 (expected next month) will support satellite connectivity. 

Here’s what’s really going on.

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