Apple has pulled the plug on a walkie talkie feature it was developing for the iPhone.
According to The Information, Apple was developing a new feature that would have turned the iPhone into a walkie talkie, using wireless systems to communicate with other devices at a long-range, which would have been useful for situations with low or no connectivity.
The feature was designed to run without infrastructure such as a mobile phone network and would have meant that two iPhones could create an ad-hoc network for communicating.
Of course, the vast majority of users would not have used such a feature in their day to day lives, but use cases include skiing, mountain climbing, and natural disasters where phone masts are destroyed or taken offline.
Chatting via a walkie talkie would also be more secure than using a standard mobile network in some countries, so it could have worked well there.
Apple was working with Intel on the project. The concept involved sending messages between devices, despite being in a remote part of the world with no cellular signal.
Apple has reportedly been sitting on such a concept for many years, with a patent filing dating back to 2010 detailing a Short Message Service-Point to Point protocol that could send and receive messages without a backend server.
The patent also suggested that message data could be sent via voice-channel only rather than via a data channel.
Though it’s unclear why Apple has suspended the project, Ruben Caballero, who was a big fan of the idea, left Apple earlier in the year following a restructure of Apple’s 5G department.
With Intel exiting the smartphone modem market following Apple’s Qualcomm deal could also have played a role in the project’s demise, but with Apple acquiring Intel back in July, the project could be picked back up in a year or two for a future iPhone or Apple Watch.
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