Last week Apple launched new iPhones with many interesting new features. One feature reports if you’ve been in an accident (assuming your phone can connect), and the other connects the phone to satellite in a very limited way for the times when a cellular tower is out of range.
Starlink and T-Mobile are promoting a yet non-existent service that should make Apple’s satellite service look like it’s survived years of modems. All of these follow AST Spacemobile which will install its first 4/5G satellite next year to begin its coverage.
Let’s talk about our future of satellite cellular services this week. Then we’ll close with our product of the week: a very affordable pair of active noise-canceling headphones that could be perfect for those who take long trips and need to sleep with them.
apple fills a need
Apple’s emergency SOS via satellite service, which will be the first for these next-generation services, is very limited. One big advantage of this is that it will work long before the others reach critical mass.
If you’re in the middle of nowhere and need help, it won’t do any good to have a service that doesn’t work yet, so Apple service limitations only become a problem for Apple when other services become critical. Mass. Look for it in or around 2025.
This service only works in open areas that have a clear view to the sky and, I expect, you may have to do a little dancing sometimes to get enough signal. It won’t work if you fall into a ravine, get stuck in a cave, or are in a bunker.
Yet, every year there are a ton of people who get stuck at my place of residence. What they don’t realize is that the weather here can change very quickly, and that if you’re too far from your car or civilization in only shorts and a T-shirt, you’ll need help if this happens, or you’re likely to lose. Chances are anything from a few fingers to your life.
The app helps you find a satellite and then, through menus, uses the phone’s intelligence to narrow down the message and pass it on to someone who can help you. However, it can take anywhere from 15 seconds to several minutes for the satellite to get a clean line for this to work. So, if you have a broken leg, or are otherwise handicapped, you may still be out of luck.
Apple is working with Globalstar for this feature. iPhone 14 users, who initially got this facility, will get two years of this service for free. Until then, there will likely be alternatives available, and this initial offering will undoubtedly be even better.
The service is better than nothing and right now, unless you want to invest in an expensive Iridium (or other satellite) phone, it’s your only choice. Iridium’s service, while expensive, I remember it being much less expensive than traditional cellular, but still more expensive.
Starlink and T-Mobile
Elon Musk has an idea of a minute and many are surprisingly good. Although I’ve worked with a guy like Musk and know it’s a nightmare to work for or with someone like this because not every idea is good and generally, people like this can’t tell the difference Huh.
Having said that, the idea of turning Starlink satellites into a telephone solution is interesting. However, given that Starlink is already experiencing bandwidth issues, this service could make Starlink less attractive if it reduces bandwidth for existing Starlink customers.
Musk also tends to overpromise and underdeliver, miss announced delivery dates, and cause a fair number of problems for his companies. Still, SpaceX is the cheapest launch platform currently in service, surprisingly reliable, and most Starlink reviews I’ve seen have been impressively positive.
Personally, I would have waited until Starlink was profitable and performing extensively before offering another service on the network, but that’s not Musk’s way. So far, their big, risky bets have mostly worked out. But he and his companies remain a big mistake away from the crisis. Given the complexity of his companies, it looks like he’ll eventually hit a bad wall.
The service will initially be more capable than Apple’s satellite offering but will not be true cellular, and will require upgrades to the Starlink satellites. A beta of this service is rumored to last until the end of 2023, with full service expected within the next year in areas where there is a significant mass of new satellites. If it doesn’t reach critical mass, T-Mobile and Starlink are in an interesting position to be the first to succeed with a satellite-based smartphone solution.
AST Spacemobile, which is set to launch its Low Earth satellite in 2023, has partnered with companies such as Vodafone and AT&T to provide a robust route to early worldwide coverage. They would need between 45 and 65 satellites to reach critical mass, assuming no major market changes or the emergence of largely better competitive technology, before the end of 2025.
The company is wrapped up with 2,400 patents and should be able to provide good 4/5G coverage once critical mass is achieved. The service will be treated like international travel or on-plane service to areas that have cellular options, so your phone will work where it currently doesn’t. Or as primary phone service for people who are outside cellular coverage areas, such as remote land or sea locations.
This will certainly improve ship-to-shore and most radio solutions for police and first responders are operating in areas where there is either no cellular service or where cellular service has been disrupted. Unlike the other two services, AST SpaceMobile will be like regular cellular in that it will support both voice and data and will not have the limitations of the other two services. But its quality and data throughput will surpass terrestrial cellular services indefinitely.
This service should work on planes as well and be better than what you currently get on airplanes. It will support both voice and data whereas planes currently only support data (people are against getting cellular coverage on planes for fear that those using it will drive them crazy with loud incessant phone calls).
With Apple’s announcement last week, we are now in the world of consumer satellite cellular communications and the growing potential to be able to call for help from anywhere in the world, regardless of where the cell tower is located.
This can be huge for those who find themselves in trouble or lost in remote areas and provides peace of mind for parents who can’t locate their children.
Apple is just the beginning. Companies like Starlink and T-Mobile promise far better data bandwidth than Apple, and AST Spacemobile promises global general-purpose 4/5G cellular service that includes both voice and data in the same general time frame. .
By the latter part of this decade, the idea of going out of service may be as obsolete as the need to find a phone booth was in the 1990s. That, my friends, is something worth looking forward to.
Soundcore by Anker Space Q45 Noise Canceling Headphones
I travel a lot, so I have a lot of noise-canceling headphones with me.
Most headphones are not only very expensive, they are also not comfortable to sleep on a plane. Many are in the $250+ range, which is way too expensive for kids and, considering I leave these on airplanes, they add up for me too. Also, I don’t like earbuds or earplugs because they make my ears itch, which makes it difficult to sleep.
Well, I may have found the perfect solution in a set of headphones you can sleep in: the Soundcore by Anker Space Q45 Adaptive Noise Canceling Headphones. At a retail price of around $150 on Amazon, they’re not the cheapest on the market, but they’re a ton less expensive than most of the headphones I currently own.
Space Q45 Noise Canceling Headphones (Images Credit: Soundcore)
These are an over-the-ear design with very soft pads, which make them much easier to sleep than my Bose and Sony headphones, and far more comfortable long-term for me than earbuds or on-ear products.
The Space Q45 headphones offer 50-hour battery life (I haven’t tested it), support Bluetooth 5.3, and have one of the most robust noise cancellation solutions I’ve tested—including five levels of noise cancellation Which are either turned off automatically or can be controlled by an app. If someone wants to chat with you – and you want to listen – they have a voice passthrough button.
These headphones have big 40mm drivers that lend themselves to decent lows and the sound quality was pretty good, to my ears, with significant range. For those who need an over-the-ear, affordable, noise-canceling solution they can sleep with, the Soundcore by Anker Space Q45 Headphones may be the ideal solution—and it’s my product of the week .
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.