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Should you be excited for Apple’s satellite connectivity?
Fad or future?
If you watched the latest Far Out event from Apple, you might have noticed the debut of a new technology coming to smartphones: satellite connectivity. Though Apple has made the biggest deal of the new feature, the technology has existed even before Apple’s announcement. In fact, various smartphone makers are also announcing their own takes to go along with Apple’s satellites.
But what exactly is satellite connectivity? Before the world gets more of the new feature, let’s take a look at this emerging technology.
Look at the sky
The night sky is filled with satellites. Though you might not see any of them with the naked eye, they are all there in low Earth orbit (LEO). As you might imagine, their uses are aplenty. Most attribute LEO satellites to imaging, navigating, and measuring data. However, one emerging use is the improvement of connectivity for consumer devices.
Now, the biggest proponent of satellite internet is Starlink, a project of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. With over 300,000 satellites, the company’s satellite constellation provides internet to several countries including areas with low coverage. In fact, the company’s services are already somewhat in the Philippines.
Satellite internet does have its benefits. While the service isn’t the fastest, it offers connectivity that regular towers can’t normally reach. Imagine being out on a hike but you suddenly remember, oh my God, you left your stove running at home. Satellite internet will allow you to connect to the internet and notify a neighbor to check if your apartment has any wayward burn marks running up its walls.
Quite a feat, isn’t it? But is this what Apple just launched?
SOS, please someone help me
Contrary to what you might think, Apple’s new satellite connectivity doesn’t offer internet. It’s also not Starlink. Instead, it’s a simple SOS messaging service through the Globalstar satellite constellation. It won’t solve your faulty 5G service. However, it’ll help you in a pinch if you find yourself lost in the middle of nowhere.
Once again, imagine you’re out hiking. Suddenly, you fall down an unseen slope and break your ankle. You find yourself miles and miles away from civilization, and no one knows where you are. Apple’s satellite connectivity can help you send an SOS message to the authorities.
Here’s how it works. When you’re in a predicament, fire up the feature and point your phone towards the satellite nearest you. (Don’t worry; the phone will tell you where it is).
Now, it might take a few seconds to a minute before the phone can connect to a satellite — especially if the skies aren’t clear or if you’re underneath a canopy of trees. It might not even connect if the skies are completely obstructed. Regardless, while it tries to connect, the phone will ask a series of questions including who needs help and if anyone was harmed. This helps the phone craft and compress the necessary information for your message.
Because the service is only for emergencies, you can’t write an essay. Apple says that it will squeeze messages three time as small to ease transmission. It’s a wide-reaching 911 call for when you can’t actually call 911.
After compressing the message, the satellite will then beam the message to a nearby relay station on the ground, which will alert authorities for you.
Who can use it?
Naturally, only Apple users who have the latest devices will have the feature for now. Also, because it’s so new, it’s only coming to the United States and Canada with the upcoming iOS 16 update later this year. Of course, it might arrive to other territories soon after the initial launch.
China, however, is a no-go. Huawei launched its own satellite connectivity, packing the feature in the new Mate 50 series. If you’re in mainland China, you’ll have to use Huawei’s services.
Interestingly, Apple made it a point to say that the feature is free for the next two years. The implication seems clear: Users might have to fork over cash to keep the feature once the two years are up. Now, if you’re celebrating the coming of this arguably essential feature, the possibility of a paywall might leave a sour taste in your mouth. Should companies gatekeep who gets to send emergency messages in their time of need?
Passing fad or the future?
If you’re not a regular hiker, satellite connectivity might not appeal to you. However, it’s still interesting to wonder if the technology will make an impact outside of Apple. And it does seem that way.
It’s no coincidence that a few brands, including Apple and Huawei, have suddenly launched their own satellite connectivity features within a short span. Companies are putting a lot of money into the future of satellites. Very likely, Apple won’t be the last company to adopt the new feature.
Emergency satellite services are essential. Even if you don’t hike, you’ll never know when you might get into a precarious situation without cell coverage. Satellite connectivity mitigates that risk.
Now, how will the technology evolve beyond emergency services? Coupled with the efforts of Starlink, the early stages of satellite connectivity proves the concept of a satellite-laden future. Currently, a lot of services still struggle with the lack of towers in certain locations. The aid of satellites creates a future that won’t need towers everywhere. Though speed might be an issue, connectivity won’t.
That future is quite a possibility. However, it will also come with a host of questions. With space limited to only a handful of providers, will companies launch more satellites to address the potential need? How will space look like then? Will it just be a wasteland of used satellites? How much will everything cost? Though it’s coming, the future still has much to clarify.
Illustrations by Garel Perpetua.
DITO is all-in for the next generation of mobile connectivity
But what do they mean by this, exactly?
For as long as most Filipinos can remember, the Philippines has always had only two major mobile networks that they could choose from. This made the choice of network provider a bit simple but very limited for consumers. Recently, however, an actual third player came into the picture in the form of DITO Telecommunity.
While availability started back in March, DITO is making strides in terms of the services it’s offering. Currently, they are available in over 650 cities and municipalities across the country. Also, for the most part, these offers consist of high-speed data plans at an affordable rate. Where they want you to shift your attention to, however, is that their network also supports 5G connectivity. In their words, it’s the “next-gen technology” they want their consumers to experience.
So, what is this “next-gen technology” that they’re going on about?
Let’s review: the essence of 5G
The biggest thing about DITO’s new network service is their claim to bring “the real 5G” to the Philippines, at least according to DITO CTO Retired Major General Rodolfo Santiago. We had already talked about the whole 5G experience and what it brings to the table, so let’s not get into it too much. Basically, 5G serves as the next big thing in mobile connectivity, promising faster connections and wider coverage.
As such, telecommunication companies are opting-in to provide just that to its consumer base. However, like most new technologies, there are obstacles in the way that makes fast mobile data a little impossible to achieve. Well, DITO pretty much has that covered with what they call their world-class digital infrastructure.
Standing alone, or not standing alone?
While competitors began to introduce 5G to its consumers earlier, what they initially deployed was 5G non-standalone (NSA) network. This means that their 5G architecture is assisted by their existing 4G infrastructure. DITO, on the other hand, began developing their 5G standalone (SA) network since their rollout in 2019.
In theory, 5G standalone networks like DITO provides super-fast transmission speeds with ultra-low latency, which is suitable for most enterprises. Per its namesake, it relies heavily on its own 5G infrastructure instead of using its legacy 4G infrastructure as a jump-off point. In turn, DITO users will experience true 5G speeds every time they connect to the internet through mobile data. In other words, 5G standalone is “true 5G”.
With 5G standalone, DITO unlocks the “true 5G” in accommodating what 4G networks previously couldn’t. While it is building on what 4G connectivity initially offered, over time, it will eventually solidify itself as the standard for mobile connectivity.
The true goal for DITO
“Our goal has been to allow Filipinos to experience next-generation technology and we in DITO are excited to bring 5G to more areas in the country to truly transform digital connectivity and online interactions,” added DITO Chief Technology Officer Rodolfo Santiago.
For DITO, this is the “breakthrough connectivity” they want to bring to the general public. Apart from achieving greater mobile data speeds, each DITO SIM gives users access to more enhanced versions of innovations that are already widely available since the introduction of 4G. Two of which are VoLTE and ViLTE, the latter of which is something DITO proudly boasts.
Their next-gen offer: VoLTE and ViLTE
What exactly are these two innovations they’re enhancing with their services? Let’s start with VoLTE, mostly because this isn’t necessarily something new for most people. Simply put, Voice over LTE or VoLTE allows users to make voice calls without compromising mobile data speed. Normally, it’s an either-neither thing, wherein one use case will be a priority.
What is new is ViLTE, or as DITO calls it: Video over LTE, which works the same way as VoLTE but for video calls. In essence, users can make video calls from your device without the need for a video calling app. Also, these video calls are charged with the same rates as a normal voice call. However, this feature is currently limited to video calls between DITO subscribers.
Bringing it all together, DITO offers a package with faster connections and greater savings considering the innovations. It’s not something that a lot of other telcos are offering; for DITO, however, the experience doesn’t stop there.
Any phone will do, but what exactly do you need?
Upon its early availability, DITO released a list of compatible phones that supposedly bring out the telco’s best features. Like most providers, the DITO SIM works with any smartphone, 5G or not, for the bare minimum features like calling, texting, and mobile data. To experience “the real 5G,” however, they want a 5G device with a more standalone architecture.
For context, the 5G smartphones on this list come with either 5G NSA or 5G SA. The main difference between the two is, well, non-standalone architecture isn’t necessarily true 5G; rather, it is applying 5G to a 4G network. Meanwhile, 5G SA is its own 5G network, built and connected to 5G network bases to deliver higher speeds with lower latency than 4G.
In DITO’s case, only a handful of smartphones actually support the 5G SA architecture, which is where their 5G capabilities are built on. Currently, they are continuously exploring avenues to expand their network in order to bring “the real 5G” to more Filipinos, provided they have a supported smartphone. Again, these kinds of smartphones are a bit pricey, but to experience “the real 5G,” it’s not a bad trade-off.
The future is DITO (here)?
DITO enters the scene with the goal of bringing the next big thing in telecommunications, and their offer hinges on it. In their eyes, the promise of faster internet and wider coverage is already here, and it’s just a matter of getting people to opt-in. With its latest innovations, DITO provides a more enhanced mobile data experience.
To fully experience the next generation of technology, users must be properly equipped to wield such power. There’s a reason that DITO put out a device compatibility list upon initial launch: to provide users the best possible experience with all the features they have. Sure, any device will work with the DITO SIM, but certain devices give you that best experience.
Is it time to make the switch to the next-gen? In DITO’s eyes, the answer is simple and they’re waiting for people to join them.
This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and DITO Philippines.
The secrets behind iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode
Together with Apple’s VP for iPhone Product Marketing as well as their Human Interface Designer
For the first time ever, we had a three-way interview with Apple’s VP for iPhone Product Marketing, Kaiann Drance as well as one of their leading Human Interface Designers, Johnnie Manzari. If you’re not starstruck enough, both of them appeared in Apple’s September 2021 Keynote event!
Other than new camera sensors, newer camera features are also found on the new iPhone 13 Series. One of those is the new Cinematic Mode.
If you’ve watched some of our latest iPhone videos including the Sierra Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max unboxing, we’ve let you take a sneak peek on that new video mode.
We’re not gonna lie, it’s one amazing camera feature Apple has managed to deliver.
But what are the secrets behind it? And are you curious how technicalities work?
Watch our 16-minute interview with the Apple executives explaining why Cinematic Mode is the next big thing in mobile videography.
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