Apple has reportedly a team working on satellites and related wireless technology, although the actual outcome of their work is unknown as well as when it could be announced.
Bloomberg reports that the 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. The report fails to clarify the direction and use for satellites.
Apple could use them to beam data to a user’s device, potentially mitigating the dependence on wireless carriers, or in order to link devices together without a traditional network. Apple could also be exploring satellites for more precise location tracking for its devices, enabling improved maps and new features.
Apple could also develop a costly satellite constellation itself, or just take data from existing satellites and send it to mobile devices.
Apple declined to comment.
Apple has started hiring new software and hardware experts for the team, seeking engineers with experience in designing components for communications equipment. The company has also hired additional executives from the aerospace and wireless data delivery fields.
Apple's team is reportedly led by Michael Trela and John Fenwick, former aerospace engineers who helped lead satellite imaging company Skybox Imaging before it sold to Google in 2014.
The team has recently added people from the wireless industry, including engineer Matt Ettus, who now helps lead the initiative and had previously created Ettus Research, a National Instruments Corp.-owned firm that sells wireless networking equipment.
Apple has also hired Ashley Moore Williams, a longtime executive from Aerospace Corp. who focused on communication satellites, and Daniel Ellis, a former Netflix Inc. executive who helped oversee the company’s Content Delivery Network, or CDN.
Under Tim Cook, Apple has rapidly expanded its research and development budget, spending $16 billion in the 2019 fiscal year, an increase of 14% from the prior year, according to company filings. Apple is trying to bring more of the technology behind its products in house.
Apple also is working on a virtual reality headset to debut as early as 2021, augmented reality glasses for launch after that, MicroLED screens for future devices, new home products, self-driving car technology and a future Apple Watch that can analyze a user’s blood chemistry to determine glucose levels. Apple is also expanding its in-house chip development, seeking to replace Intel as its Mac processor maker, and Intel and Qualcomm as the providers of its modem component for phones.