iPhone X, the current flagship model, supports two extra navigation systems other than GPS, but China's BeiDou is still excluded. Photo: Handout
iPhone X, the current flagship model, supports two extra navigation systems other than GPS, but China's BeiDou is still excluded. Photo: Handout

Even as Apple finds itself caught in a protracted trade war between Beijing and Washington, the tech juggernaut is now being seen as more compliant to the wants and needs of Beijing.

This comes when there are signs that policymakers in Zhongnanhai may want to make use of Apple’s reliance on the Chinese market. This could be done by applying red tape or enforcing more stringent labor rules to suppress the iPhone maker’s manufacturing and marketing in the country, and could be justified as a reprisal for increased tariffs threatened by the Trump administration.

Apple recently outsourced its iCloud storage services for users in mainland China to a Guizhou-based big data processor. This prompted criticism of what some saw as Apple caving into Beijing, since the company normally operates its own data centers. There have also been reports that the US behemoth may become one of the biggest clients of China’s BeiDou satellite navigation system.

Chinese papers have been speculating that the much hyped and much awaited new lineup of iPhones, Apple Watches and other iOS devices soon to be unveiled in mid-September may include support for the BeiDou system.

If so, the next generation iPhones will become the first iPhone series to be compatible with BeiDou, at a time when many of China’s domestic smartphone offerings still use GPS.

BeiDuo may be all set to present a serious challenge to GPS, though it is still not clear how many buyers in China or elsewhere will favor switching systems.  However some Chinese consumers have threatened to boycott the new iPhones if Apple fails to incorporate the BeiDou navigation system.

The iPhone X, the current flagship model launched last year, added two major navigation systems – Europe’s Galileo and Japan’s Quasi-Zenith – but not the BeiDou system, though new Samsung smartphones have already hooked up with BeiDou.

If Apple executives want to further forge amicable ties with Chinese regulators and lure more discerning, patriotic Chinese customers, adding BeiDou to its iPhones may be a logical move.

A model of China’s Beidou satellite navigation system on display during the 20th China Beijing International High-tech Expo held in June. Photo: AFP

The People’s Daily quoted a Beijing-based IT expert as saying that it wouldn’t be too difficult for Apple to add support for the BeiDou system as the processors and chips used for iPhones are largely compatible with China’s indigenous system.

Earlier reports emerged saying that new iPhones will be equipped with Broadcom’s new BCM47755, hailed as “the world’s first mass-market, dual-frequency” global navigation satellite system receiver.

The new chip takes advantage of today’s greater availability of L1 and L5 frequency bands beamed from satellite constellations, and uses a combination of the two frequencies instead of one to compute a position.

The chip is equipped to receive signals from GPS satellites, Russia’s Glonass, Europe’s Galileo, and China’s BeiDou.

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