Why it matters: Apple as part of its iPhone 14 unveiling announced a new feature that’ll use satellites orbiting Earth to enable emergency messaging when a user is outside of cellular or Wi-Fi coverage. Cupertino was mum on the details but a recent filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission provided additional insight into the partnership.
Rumors of a partnership with low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite provider Globalstar surfaced just ahead of last year’s iPhone 13 launch but the feature never found its way to the handsets – at least, not publicly. Some believe the phones do in fact have the necessary hardware to enable communication with satellites and could be activated with a software update.
Apple and Globalstar eventually worked out a deal leading to yesterday’s feature announcement. Per the agreement, Apple will pay for 95 percent of the approved capital expenditures for new Globalstar satellites to run the service. In the SEC filing, Globalstar said it has partnered with Goldman Sachs & Co. and is exploring opportunities to wrap up financing in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Also of interest is the fact that Globalstar has agreed to allocate 85 percent of its current and future network capacity to support Apple’s service, and must maintain minimum quality and coverage standards as well as continuity of service.
Emergency SOS via satellite on iPhone 14 devices will arrive in November and be free for the first two years. Apple hasn’t said how much the service will cost after the free trial period.
Share value in Globalstar spiked briefly on the news but has since returned to pre-announcement levels and is currently trading around $1.88. Apple’s stock also popped yesterday afternoon but has already recovered.
Apple’s new iPhone lineup consists of the mainstream iPhone 14 and the iPhone 14 Plus as well as the premium iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. Pricing starts at $799 for the entry-level handset and $1,099 for the Pro Max. All will be available to pre-order starting September 9 ahead of general availability on September 16 (except for the iPhone 14 Plus, which won’t arrive until October 7).