Apple Watch Pro could gain a competitive edge with satellite connectivity

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The “Far Out” event next week surely feels… space-y if you’re the sort to interpret event taglines from Apple. It has prompted Apple analysts to rekindle suspicions that the company may be developing satellite functionality for emergency communications, maybe for the Apple Watch Pro as well as the iPhone. Satellite capabilities might elevate the Apple Watch Pro to the level of a serious competitor to Garmin in the multisport GPS watch market.

Apple needs to make a lot of changes to really compete in this market. The first and second items on the list are multiday battery life and increasing durability. In these two areas, the competition—Garmin, Polar, and Coros—can outperform the Apple Watch. But if there’s one area where Apple already dominates, it’s fall detection and emergency calling capabilities.

For daring explorers, reliable emergency communication might be crucial and perhaps life-saving. Although GPS and LTE connectivity have evolved over time, there are still numerous isolated locations where there is no coverage. Even seasoned hikers, campers, and endurance athletes may become disoriented in those conditions or become trapped if they sustain an injury in a cellular dead zone. Because of this, many people carry satellite phones or Garmin’s inReach devices, which are portable, two-way satellite phones with location-sharing capabilities. Athletes nearly always desire to stay light and agile, yet this equipment can be large and add weight.

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Apple’s emergency contact tools currently have a connectivity issue because they rely on LTE. Because of this, it is more dependable in regular circumstances than for outdoor enthusiasts. Similar to this, several of Garmin’s smartwatches have fall detection and emergency contact functions, but they also need a connection from your phone or must be coupled with an inReach device.

Some expensive multisport watches do currently contain satellite functionality. The problem is that they’re less concerned with emergency communication and more with increasing location accuracy. Dual-frequency satellite communication or multi-band GPS is used by watches such as the Coros Vertix 2 and the Garmin Fenix 7. When GPS first launched, it had two frequencies: L1 for civilian usage and L2 for military applications. L5, a more recent frequency, is available. Watches that allow dual-frequency satellite communication tout enhanced location accuracy in difficult situations, but it is not yet absolute. They simply can’t transmit that information at the moment until your phone has a signal as well.

A smartwatch with LTE and satellite connectivity for location sharing and emergency communications? It is simple to understand why that would appeal to people who enjoy the outdoors.

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Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear likely that the Apple Watch Pro’s initial release will include satellite services. Although Apple had internal discussions about including satellite functionality in the Apple Watches, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman remarked that it would “make sense for a future iteration of the new more durable Apple Watch Pro.”

Although somewhat disappointing, that wasn’t entirely unexpected. Apple must cooperate with wireless providers even if it can design technology that supports satellite connectivity. The feature was allegedly finalized for the iPhone 13, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, but Apple was unable to find out how to make it a reality.

Even still, it’s an alluring possibility considering that Apple still has ground to make up in terms of durability and multiday battery life. It also depends on whether the so-called Pro does well enough to receive a second or third iteration. If Apple can make it work, though? That would certainly cause a fuss.

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