Report: Apple Has 'Secret Team' Working on Satellites to Beam Data Directly to iPhones

Apple has a dedicated research team looking into new ways to beam data like internet connectivity directly to iPhones and other devices, reports Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

The Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker has about a dozen engineers from the aerospace, satellite and antenna design industries working on the project with the goal of deploying their results within five years, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal company efforts. Work on the project is still early and could be abandoned, the people said, and a clear direction and use for satellites hasn’t been finalized.

According to the report, Apple's main aim is to beam data to a user's ‌iPhone‌, potentially reducing the dependence on wireless carriers, or for linking devices together without a traditional network, thereby mitigating coverage issues. Apple could also be exploring satellites for more precise location tracking for its devices, enabling improved maps and new features.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has reportedly made the project a company priority, and Apple is said to be ramping up hiring, with new software and hardware experts being added to the team. The company has also hired additional executives from the aerospace and wireless data delivery fields, and is seeking engineers with experience in designing components for communications equipment. Apple is said to be hoping for the initiative to produce results within five years.

Back in 2017, Bloomberg reported that Apple had hired John Fenwick and Michael Trela, two Google executives who led the search giant's satellite and spacecraft operations. At the time, what the two would be doing at Apple was unclear, but Bloomberg now reports that Fenwick and Trela are leading the team dedicated to satellites and related wireless technology.

According to the report, the team has recently added people from the wireless industry, including engineer Matt Ettus, one of the foremost names in wireless technologies; Ashley Moore Williams, a longtime executive from Aerospace who focused on communication satellites; and Daniel Ellis, a former Netflix executive who helped oversee the company's Content Delivery Network. Ellis is said to have experience in building networks that can beam content and information on a global scale.

What remains unclear is whether Apple plans to develop its own satellite systems or make use of ground-based technology that could receive data from existing satellites and send it to mobile devices. Efforts by the likes of Facebook and Amazon to deploy satellites are a long way from becoming reality, but Apple could potentially look to existing satellite makers like Lockheed Martin or Boeing to provide the necessary hardware in the sky.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
10 months ago
We've seen more and more govts cutting internet services during protests, using the internet to spy on their populations and to influence public opinion. For these and other reasons, bypassing local telecommunication systems is a very interesting proposition.
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
10 months ago
And sharks with lasers?
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
10 months ago
This is really interesting. Building in Sat-com to iPhones would be a serious differentiator in the market. Perhaps if it's even just for emergency SOS calls from anywhere on earth, still an awesome technology and something that I think really would add value to the Apple mobile device proposition for me personally as a hiker.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
10 months ago
Perhaps bypassing the great firewall of China etc.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
10 months ago
Not sure why it's a company priority
What do they know that we don't know?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
10 months ago


I’m serious though. No more upgrading your phone because it’s become slow or having to buy expensive “Pro” devices for processor intensive tasks - everything is being run on their servers and your device is basically just a screen.

...till they shoot down or otherwise interupt the satellite, then it'll just be a brick. This whole thin thick client story is decades old btw.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Here's How You Can Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Around the World [It's Out]

Wednesday September 16, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Apple's official public release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 dropped on Wednesday, September 16, just a day after the company released the Golden Master to third-party developers. Also set to be made available to the general public for the first time are watchOS 7 and tvOS 14. Getting Started With iOS 14 Video Click image to watch iOS 14 Getting Started While that's left a lot of developers...

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...

Apple Releases iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 With Home Screen Redesign, App Library, Compact UI, Translate App, Scribble Support, App Clips, and More

Wednesday September 16, 2020 12:48 pm PDT by
Apple has released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the newest operating system updates designed for the iPhone and iPad. As with all of Apple's software updates, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded for free. iOS 14 is available on the iPhone 6s and later, while iPadOS 14 is available on the iPad Air 2 and later. The updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To ...

Apple Releases Safari 14 for Mac Ahead of macOS Big Sur Launch

Wednesday September 16, 2020 1:40 pm PDT by
macOS Big Sur didn't launch alongside iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 today, with the update coming later this fall, but Apple did release the Safari 14 update for macOS Catalina and macOS Mojave users. Safari 14 brings improved performance, customizable start pages, a Privacy Report to see which cross-site trackers are being blocked, and a new tab bar design that provides tab...

Apple Updates AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 3A283

Monday September 14, 2020 11:24 am PDT by
Apple today released new 3A283 firmware updates for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The second-generation AirPods are being updated from the 2D15 firmware they were previously running, while the AirPods Pros are being updated from the 2D27 firmware they had installed previously. Apple does not provide details on what's included in refreshed firmware so we don't know what's ...

Spotify Says Apple One Bundle Will Cause 'Irreparable Harm to Developer Community'

Tuesday September 15, 2020 12:26 pm PDT by
Apple today announced Apple One, a series of new subscription bundles that provide access to various Apple services at a combined monthly price. In response, Spotify sent out statements (via Peter Kafka) to the press decrying Apple's anti-competitive behavior and calling on "competition authorities" to stop Apple before it is able to cause "irreparable harm" to developers.Once again, Apple...

Apple Releases watchOS 7 With New Watch Faces, Family Setup, Sleep Tracking, Handwashing Help and More

Wednesday September 16, 2020 12:47 pm PDT by
Apple today released watchOS 7, the newest version of the watchOS operating system designed to run on modern Apple Watch models. The watchOS 7 update comes after several months of beta testing. ‌watchOS 7‌ can be downloaded for free through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General > Software Update. To install the new software, the Apple Watch needs to have at...

New AirPods Pro Firmware Introduces Spatial Audio Support and Automatic Switching

Monday September 14, 2020 12:22 pm PDT by
The new 3A283 firmware that Apple released for the AirPods Pro today appears to introduce support for Spatial Audio, a new feature coming to the higher-end AirPods with iOS 14. Multiple reports on Twitter and the MacRumors forums indicate that the firmware update adds a "Spatial Audio" option to the Control Center, which can be activated to enable the feature. Note that using Spatial Audio...

Here Are All of the New Apple Watch Faces Apple Announced Today

Tuesday September 15, 2020 2:55 pm PDT by
Apple today announced the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE, both of which will be compatible with new watch faces that are being introduced in the watchOS 7 update set to be released tomorrow. Apple has provided a video highlighting all of the new Apple Watch faces, with details on each one. GMT - The GMT face shows multiple time zones at once, while also taking into...

iOS 14.2 Beta Adds New Shazam Music Recognition Feature for Control Center

Thursday September 17, 2020 3:36 pm PDT by
Apple today released the first beta of iOS 14.2 to developers for testing purposes, and the new update introduces a Music Recognition control for the Control Center. The new feature lets you discover music playing around you and it recognizes the music playing with in apps, even when you're wearing AirPods. Songs pop up as notifications, and you can tap to listen in Apple Music....