Report: Apple Mothballs Walkie-Talkie-Like Feature for iPhones | News & Opinion


The technology would’ve worked by tapping the 900 megahertz spectrum to send long-range messages in the event iPhone owners are in remote areas without cellular service, according to The Information.


Apple has reportedly suspended a project to let iPhones in the same neighboring areas message each other without the need for cellular coverage.

Apple was originally working with Intel to incorporate the feature into the chipmaker’s cellular modems for upcoming iPhones, according to a report from The Information. The technology would’ve worked by tapping the 900 megahertz radio spectrum, which is used by ham radios and industrial equipment, to send long-range messages in the event iPhone owners are in remote areas without cellular service.

Why the feature was shelved is unknown, but The Information points to two possible factors: Apple’s leader for the project, executive Ruben Caballero, left the company earlier this year. Around the same time, Apple also struck a multiyear agreement to source modems from Qualcomm after the two companies settled a patent battle.

Although the feature has been suspended, it’s possible Apple could one day revive the project. Last month, the company bought Intel’s 5G modem business for $1 billion with the goal of using the acquisition to help Apple’s products stand out in the future.

The Information’s report also points out that other companies have been working on similar solutions to let smartphone devices exchange messages without cellular, Wi-Fi or satellite services. GoTenna has been offering baton-like accessories for $179 that you can pair with two handsets to enable text messaging and GPS location sharing between your smartphones when off the grid. The company’s “Mesh” product can work up to 4 miles in range.

In the meantime, Apple has enabled a Walkie-Talkie feature in the company’s smartwatches. However, it works by tapping a Wi-Fi or a cellular network to communicate over the internet.



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