But maybe not this year
It shouldn’t be too much longer before the Apple Watch 8 is unveiled, and we might well see a premium Apple Watch Pro model appear alongside it – and it would seem that Apple has ambitious plans for this particular wearable.
As per the usually reliable Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, Apple has been discussing adding satellite connectivity to its smartwatch line. That’s a premium feature suitable for a premium watch, and it could make sense for a future Apple Watch model.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the Apple Watch Pro (which has been given a variety of names in the leaks we’ve seen up to this point), but the ability to ping satellites directly would be useful in scenarios where Wi-Fi and cellular networks aren’t available.
Apple is apparently positioning the new smartwatch model as a more rugged, outdoor-focused device, with a tweaked design – one that could take on the high-end smartwatches that Garmin makes for runners and hikers.
The idea is that a satellite hook up would be used for “reporting major incidents in places without cellular service”, which sounds exactly like a feature that seasoned outdoor adventurers would need. The same feature is also said to be on the way for the iPhone.
What’s not clear is whether any of this functionality will appear in the devices that Apple is going to unveil at its September 7 event. It’s possible that we’ll have to wait another year or two for satellite-connected Apple iPhones and Apple Watches.
Analysis: reach for the stars
Satellite-based internet services are continuing to grow and expand, with the likes of Starlink and T-Mobile demonstrating that the technology is becoming cheaper and more practical just this week. Over time, the barriers to connecting to orbiting satellites are going to be lowered even further.
In other words you’ll no longer need a chunky antenna or a hugely expensive phone in order to connect to a satellite network. That’s important when you’re trying to fit the technology into a compact and affordable device that appeals to consumers, such as a smartphone – or a smartwatch for the wrist.
To begin with, the service that Apple is planning may be for emergencies only: in other words, you’ll be able to text and contact the emergency services when you have no other connection options available, but you won’t be able to check your emails or browse the web. However, the feature is likely to become more advanced over time.
“Ultimately, users could have global internet access and be able to make regular phone calls over satellite links,” writes Gurman . “The combination of speedy 5G networks and satellite service could one day turn the iPhone into the most powerful global communications device available.”
By David Nield