Texting Via Satellite Brought to Android Users by Qualcomm
Qualcomm takes on Apple with new service that lets Android users text off the grid via the Iridium satellite network.
This is an awesome development for all who enjoy hiking, hunting, camping, sailing or any off-grid activity. We already have some great satellite communicators like ZOLEO ($199), ACR Bivy Stick and Garmin inReach Mini 2 but this will totally revamp the smartphone market in late 2023.
If you buy a new Android smartphone later this year (like a OnePlus 11
or Samsung Galaxy S23) that is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip you'll be able to send 2-way text messages using the satellite network. If you're out of cellphone coverage areas and need to communicate where
you are this will come in extremely useful!
San Diego's Qualcomm unveiled it's latest innovation that will allow Android smartphone users to send a text, even if they don't have a cellular signal.
The new feature is similar to but more powerful than - Apple's Emergency SOS via satellite. iPhone 14 is not a satellite phone but does have this emergency feature.
An excerpt by Natallie Rocha of the The Seattle Times
Qualcomm has partnered with satellite provider Iridium to launch the Snapdragon Satellite, the company announced this month at CES in Las Vegas. Instead of relying on infrastructure on earth, the satellite in space would expand global connectivity for next-generation Android phones later this year.
Garmin, a company that makes GPS-enabled technology, will also collaborate on the emergency messaging functionality. The texting feature will be available in phones that have both Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and its X70 Modem system.
Qualcomm said device manufacturers and app developers will also be able to take advantage of the growing satellite-connected network in the future.
The current focus is on sending text messages from cellphones - as calling or sending images requires more bandwidth - but Qualcomm said it plans to expand to other Internet-enabled devices such as laptops, tablets and vehicles.
The idea is for people to be able to send a text message even if they don't have a cellphone signal in the middle of the ocean or in an emergency situation. After typing out a message, the app may guide the user to point their phone in the direction of a satellite in the sky.
This is made possible by a fleet of Iridium satellites orbiting the earth and the phone will pick up the most powerful signal, a spokesperson for Qualcomm said.
At the end of last year, Apple launched its satellite emergency SOS feature on iPhone 14's that allows users to contact emergency services. At this time, Apple does not support two-way text messaging to any phone contact via satellite. The SOS feature is free for the first two years after activating the iPhone, but it's not clear how much it could cost after this period.
While Qualcomm's technology will roll out months after Apple, it does have an edge in offering two-way text messaging to anyone in addition to emergency messages.
A spokesperson for Qualcomm said it will be up to the manufacturers of the devices and service providers to determine pricing after this technology debuts in the second half of 2023.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Francesco Grilli, Qualcomm's vice president of product management said that users can expect emergency communications to be "very low cost or no cost."
For satellite-enabled communication devices currently on the market, like the Garmin inReach Mini, it costs about $350 plus a monthly subscription fee. Adding this technology into smartphones would broaden its reach as these kinds of two-way communication devices are typically used by hikers.