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Apple Delays 'Walkie Talkie for Texts' Ahead of iPhone 11 Launch

(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 11 has a lot of rumored features, from a new A13 processor and triple cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro to reverse wireless charging and an improved shatter-resistant design. But here's one iPhone feature that no one saw coming.

According to The Information, Apple has been working on a "walkie for text messages feature" that would have allowed iPhone owners to send messages to other iPhones over long-distance radio waves. This technology would bypass cellular networks, making it a good fit for remote areas that have poor coverage by wireless carriers.

There's no guarantee that this feature would have made it into the iPhone 11, but it's an intriguing feature that would help Apple's handsets stand out.

The Information reports that this project has been reportedly shelved, which went by the name Project OGRS inside Apple and Project Shrek inside Intel. The tech would have used Intel modems inside upcoming iPhones and work over the 900 MHz spectrum. 

So why not go forward with this walkie talkie for texts? For one, Apple is expected to embrace Qualcomm's 5G modems for the iPhone in 2020 while it works in the background on creating its own modem. To speed up this effort, Apple purchased Intel's modem business for $1 billion in late July.

This particular project might have been de-prioritized as Apple figures out a way to digest its big investment and 2,200 additional employees.

Second, The Information reports that the person leading the short-range communication effort at Apple, Rubén Caballero, left the company earlier this year. Caballero was reportedly tasked with building in-house modems for Apple and had a team of 1,000 employees "working on wireless projects." 

However, once Caballero exited stage left, it's easy to see why his ambitious initiative lost steam.

The good news is that "the technology could still show up in future iPhones, one of the people familiar with the project said." iPhone 12, anyone?

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.