There’s a good chance your next Android phone will support Qualcomm’s two-way satellite text messaging service, as the chipmaker has announced support from six major phone makers.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite service is designed to let you send text messages to your contacts while you’re off-grid in remote areas with no coverage. We just learned that Honor, Motorola, Nothing, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi are all working on phones that support it.
A notable absentee is Samsung, the world’s largest Android phone brand. That’s because Samsung recently announced its own network modem that will allow two-way communication between phones and satellites. The Samsung Galaxy S23 is expected to support Qualcomm’s Snapdragon satellite technology, but strangely, this phone does not.
The reason for the omission appears to be the race to provide Android’s equivalent of the iPhone’s Emergency SOS feature. Unlike Apple’s system, Qualcomm’s technology uses the Iridium satellite network and promises to be useful for more than just hiking emergencies — Qualcomm suggests it could also be used for “recreation” in remote areas, and getting in touch with others when there’s no signal Connect with family and friends.
It’s unclear when we’ll see the first Qualcomm Snapdragon Satellite-enabled phone, but it shouldn’t be too long—Qualcomm says it’s coming to 5G devices with Snapdragon 8 or Snapdragon 4 chips, which means It will initially be limited to high-end and mid-range phones.
Interestingly, Qualcomm also said that the Snapdragon Satellite will enter “other device categories in computing, automotive, and IoT,” meaning we can expect to see support for it in future laptops, cars, and more.
Analysis: The take-off of satellite text messaging
Satellite news has been one of the hottest topics at this week’s MWC 2023 show (you can follow it on our MWC 2023 Live Blog). This announcement from Qualcomm suggests it’s going to be one of the big features of your next Android phone — even if Samsung seems to be going its own way.
Motorola already stole Qualcomm’s thunder last week by announcing the Motorola Defy 2, a rugged Android phone that offers two-way satellite messaging using a different service called Bullitt Satellite Messenger. It also released the Defy Satellite Link (pictured above), a Bluetooth remote that also works with older Android phones and iPhones.
But while Qualcomm’s and Bullitt’s satellite messaging services broadly promise to provide the same service — two-way messaging in remote areas — they’re based on different networks and work in different ways. While Qualcomm promises that the Snapdragon satellites will “provide true global coverage from pole to pole” (as long as you can see the open sky), Bullitt’s satellite coverage is a bit limited.
Qualcomm’s service will also integrate with Android phones’ SMS text messages, without the need for a separate app. But we don’t yet know how much the Snapdragon Satellite will cost. However, Bullitt Satellite Messenger gives us a ballpark figure: $4.99/£4.99 (about AU$9) per month, with the ability to send 30 two-way messages, and access to its SOS assistance service.
Both Qualcomm’s and Bullitt’s services are more flexible than Apple’s SOS emergency call feature, and we expect to see the first Snapdragon Satellite Android phones arrive later this year. While satellite messaging remains a relatively niche feature for now, it will be interesting to see how Apple and Samsung react.