Android phones will soon be getting a feature similar to — and perhaps even more powerful than — Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite. Qualcomm has announced that its new processors and modems will allow phones to communicate with the Iridium satellite network, letting users send and receive messages even in areas without cell coverage.
A couple of months ago, Apple has enabled the groundbreaking safety service Emergency SOS via satellite for its iPhone users. At CES 2023, Qualcomm has partnered with communications firm Iridium and Garmin to announce Android phones will also soon be getting the similar feature.
Qualcomm is calling it Snapdragon Satellite and confirms this feature will be available in high-end premium Android phones that have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset paired up with X70 Modem system, along with some additional radios. The company also notes that this feature won’t be just for emergencies, but also “recreation in remote, rural, and offshore locations”.
Qualcomm has partnered with Iridium, which works with 66-strong Low Earth orbit satellite constellation, enabling OEMs and other service providers to deliver truly worldwide coverage. Iridium’s one of main competitors is Globalstar, which is Apple’s partner for its emergency satellite service.
Qualcomm showcased this functionality at CES 2023, detailing visually how Snapdragon Satellite lets users send SMS messages to their contacts, as well as alert emergency services if they were to encounter problems in remote or rural locations. Users will be getting complete worldwide coverage from pole to pole.
To send SMS using this service, you’ll need to catch a clear view of the sky and time to align your phone to point toward it, so that you connect with a satellite. Using this functionality, you will be able to send your own text messages once the connection is established. Users can only send 160 character messages back and forth. On the other side, iPhone 14 users are limited to fixed responses that are sent on to emergency services.
Snapdragon Satellite service will be expanded to other devices such as laptops, tablets, car, and IoT products. Qualcomm says that Emergency messaging on Snapdragon Satellite “is planned to be available on next-generation smartphones, launched in select regions starting in the second half of 2023.” There’s no clear word on how much this will cost to use when available later this year, but you will be able to use it with your regular phone number.
It is worth mentioning that the first batch of Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipsets will be lacking the necessary hardware for Snapdragon Satellite connectivity. So, even though you own an Android phone with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, you may not be able to utilize this feature.