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Apple reportedly scraps tech to let iPhone communicate like a walkie-talkie

Apple was working on a way to bring a high-tech version of the Apple Watch’s Walkie Talkie feature to the iPhone — but according to a new report from The Information, it may have shelved the feature for now.

Walkie-Talkie on the iPhone would have allowed users to communicate with others nearby without relying on cellular coverage. Such a feature could come in handy on hikes or in other situations with poor or no cellular coverage.

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It’s not currently known exactly why the project is being shelved, but according to one of the sources for the report, it may have something to do with the departure of the lead on the project, Ruben Caballero, earlier this year. Caballero reportedly had around 1,000 employees working on wireless projects like this, and was even working on an Apple modem.

Apple was reportedly working on a new technology with Intel that would allow users to send messages to other users via long-distance radio waves. Specifically, the technology would have reportedly worked over the 900MHz radio spectrum. Currently, that spectrum is used for radio communication in the oil and gas industries.

Of course, just because Apple has shelved the project for now doesn’t mean it won’t show up later. Because the project was in the works in partnership with Intel, part of the reason that it was put away for now may bethat Apple is switching to Qualcomm modems for the next few iPhone models. Given that Apple bought out Intel’s modem business, it’s possible the feature may show up once Apple finally develops and implements its own modems. Apple is expected to release new iPhones in a few weeks that will feature Qualcomm modems, and Qualcomm modems are expected to power the company’s first 5G phones, which may launch in 2020.

The feature would fit in with Apple’s emphasis on health and safety over the past few years, and would be a natural extension of the feature on the Apple Watch. It’s important to note that the Apple Watch’s feature does use cellular networks — so don’t expect to be able to use it in rural areas or areas without cellular coverage. It’s likely the Apple Watch feature would eventually switch to the new tech, if Apple does eventually release it on the iPhone.

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