HomeTechnologyNewsQualcomm wants to bring text messages via satellite to Android phones

Qualcomm wants to bring text messages via satellite to Android phones

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Apple introduced Emergency SOS via satellite with the iPhone 14 series, allowing people to send emergency messages from areas without traditional cellular service. Qualcomm is working on more advanced satellite messages, coming to Android phones, tablets and maybe even laptops.

Qualcomm, the company behind the Snapdragon chipsets found in many Android phones (such as the Galaxy S22 and OnePlus 10T), today announced “Snapdragon Satellite” at CES 2023. It is billed as the world’s first two-way messaging system for premium smartphones, using a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites operated by Iridium Communications.

There are some differences between Qualcomm’s solution and the satellite SOS function developed by Apple. First off, Snapdragon Satellite is supposed to enable two-way communication, rather than the iPhone 14’s one-way emergency transmission. Qualcomm’s system isn’t limited to emergency situations, either.

Image of Snapdragon Satellite with sending a message
Qualcomm

Those features mean it should be possible to have a normal text conversation using the satellites, but judging by the “check messages” button on the images provided by Qualcomm, replies must be manually checked with the phone facing the open sky. That means you won’t get new text message alerts in the middle of nowhere while your phone is in your pocket. Still, that’s certainly better than not communicating: Keeping in touch with friends and family during a remote camping trip (or natural disaster) could prove invaluable to many people.

However, the satellite network is not just for phones. Qualcomm said in its announcement: “Snapdragon Satellite can be expanded to other devices, including laptops, tablets, vehicles, and IoT. As the Snapdragon Satellite ecosystem grows, OEMs and app developers can differentiate themselves and offer unique branded services by leveraging satellite connectivity. Snapdragon Satellite is planned to support 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTNs) as NTN satellite constellations and infrastructure become available.”

Snapdragon Satellite Modem Diagram
Qualcomm

The main problem is that the Snapdragon Satellite does not appear to be a complete package. Qualcomm says that emergency messaging “is planned to be available on next-generation smartphones, launching in select regions starting in the second half of 2023” and will be developed in collaboration with Garmin. There is no confirmed schedule for regular non-emergency messages, and we do not know availability or pricing. Apple is offering two years of free satellite connectivity with every iPhone 14 purchase, and the company hasn’t said how much the feature will cost after that.

It’s great to see more progress in satellite connectivity, especially with T-Mobile and SpaceX trying to set up a similar system. However, we’ll have to wait and see if Qualcomm can deliver.

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