It’s a big surprise.
This is news that neither Apple (AAPL) fans nor admirers of the charismatic and whimsical Elon Musk could have imagined even in their wildest dreams.
And yet, it would seem that one of the most innovative companies of the last decades and the most influential and visionary boss of this same period were discussing a possible commercial partnership between the iPhone maker and SpaceX, the launch company of rockets founded by Musk.
The news was announced by none other than the billionaire himself. In a post on Twitter, the richest man in the world announced that SpaceX and Apple had discussed a satellite service for iPhone. Basically, the discussions between the two parties were about offering satellite connectivity to iPhones using Starlink, the satellite internet service offered by SpaceX.
The iPhone team is “super smart”
“We’ve had some promising conversations with Apple about Starlink connectivity,” the tech mogul said on Twitter Sept. 8.
Musk, who has often dismissed Apple’s recent innovations, complimented the tech giant: “The iPhone team is obviously super smart.”
He added that: “Of course, closing the link from space to the phone will work better if the phone’s software and hardware adapt to space signals versus Starlink purely emulating the cell tower.”
He did not say if the discussion was ongoing.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk’s announcement comes a day after Apple unveiled its satellite communications service in partnership with Globalstar (GSAT) . The service will eventually allow users to make emergency calls over a satellite connection even when they don’t have cell service. It is limited to messages at first.
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The iPhone compatible antennas would connect to a satellite and communicate in places where there is no cellular connectivity. The service is supposed to work with a direct satellite connection (and therefore would not be compatible with current iPhone models), with the need to be outdoors and on the go.
Satellite functionality will be free with new iPhones for two years.
“It is currently expected that [Apple] will make the services available to customers in the fourth quarter of 2022…There can be no assurance that the launch of the service will occur,” Globalstar said in a regulatory filing.
The Apple-Globalstar partnership resembles an announcement made in late August by SpaceX and T-Mobile. According to the agreement, SpaceX will provide satellite connection service in remote areas where the traditional cellular network is insufficient.
The partnership is based on technology offered by Starlink as written by Tom Bemis of TheStreet. Starlink, the low Earth orbit satellite network operated by SpaceX, is expected to begin launching a new generation of satellites next year.
“Second-generation Starlink satellites will be able to transmit directly to your cell phone,” Musk promised. “No more dead zones, in a nutshell.”
The service would use the 12 Ghz spectrum to offer a rudimentary connection via a 5G modem, and it should launch in beta next year, only with SMS at first.
It’s surprising to see Musk in talks with Apple because the billionaire and Tesla executives (TSLA) , Musk’s electric vehicle maker, keeps criticizing Apple. In February, Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer, said Apple hadn’t invented anything in a very long time.
“Oh my God, I heard about Apple products. Now it’s like there’s nothing more to look forward to. It’s true!” Franz von Holzhausen told Spike’s Car radio in February. “I feel like it’s just a continuation. It’s just kind of a slight refinement on the same thing,” he said. “Inspiration-wise, it’s been hard to be, you know, super motivated by what they’re doing.”
In May, Musk himself didn’t shy away from attacking Apple, taking a stand on the controversial levy the iPad and Apple Watch maker applies to in-app sales as well as in-app purchases.
“The Apple store is like having a 30% tax on the Internet. Definitely disagree,” the tech mogul posted on Twitter on May 3.
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