Apple is developing satellites that could one day offer high-speed data directly to its smartphones, tablets, watches, and computers. Bloomberg reports the Cupertino-based company has a "secret team" designing satellites, and the technology might allow future hardware to bypass traditional wireless networks altogether. Now, we're seeing just how much Apple wants to cut out partners.
The project should take several years to formulate. Still, Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly sees it as a priority. Apple's satellites aren't going to roll out anytime soon, and that's fine if they'll eventually reduce the dependency on wireless carriers or at least improve location tracking. Apple hasn't finalized its strategy, according to the report.
Satellite-based internet could replace carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. In addition, global carriers outside the United States might be impacted. Apple's satellites could offer high-speed data to next-generation iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac devices anywhere in the world. Carriers would be significantly hurt by losing Apple's reliance on their networks, but it'll streamline the company's business.
Apple doesn't want to rely on outside partners as much as it does today. Currently, the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods utilize in-house chips. The majority of components, though, are still made by other companies. Apple has started work on MicroLED displays, and it did acquire Intel's 5G modem segment earlier this year. There's no question Apple desires to handle the supply chain anywhere possible. Dropping wireless networks and instead transferring data through satellites aligns with that approach.
By hiring industry experts, Apple appears serious about developing satellites. However, it's not the only company with similar plans. SpaceX, which Elon Musk owns and operates, should start offering satellite-based internet plans in mid-2020. It'll also be joined by Amazon at some point. Regulatory filings reveal Amazon aims to launch as many as 3,236 satellites enabling high-speed, affordable internet. Both companies are prepared to spend billions of dollars in rolling out the necessary infrastructure.
The report suggests Apple would like to set its satellites into orbit within the next five years. So don't expect the next iPhone or anything else in the pipeline to feature satellite-based connectivity. Everything should continue relying on 4G networks until 5G takes over, and then Apple might start transitioning its hardware to satellites if performance meets expectations.
By Justin Herrick