There’s a good chance your next Android phone will support Qualcomm’s two-way satellite text messaging service, as the chip maker has announced support for six major phone manufacturers.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon Satellite service is designed to allow you to text your contacts when you are offline in remote locations that have no network coverage, as we discovered in our hands-on look at tech. And we just learned that Honor, Motorola, Nothing, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi are all on board to develop phones that support it.
A notable absence from this list is the world’s largest Android phone brand, Samsung. That’s because Samsung recently announced its own network modem that will allow two-way communication between phones and satellites. The Samsung Galaxy S23 was expected to support Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite technology, but strangely it wasn’t on this phone (even though it technically could support it).
The reason for this omission appears to be that there is currently a race to offer an Android equivalent to the iPhone’s Emergency SOS feature. Unlike Apple’s system, Qualcomm’s technology uses an Iridium satellite network and promises to be useful not only in emergencies while hiking – Qualcomm suggests it can also be used for “recreation” in remote areas and to connect with family and friends when you have no signal.
It’s not yet clear when we’ll see the first Qualcomm Snapdragon Satellite-enabled phones, but it shouldn’t be too long – Qualcomm says it will land on 5G devices with Snapdragon 8 or Snapdragon 4 chips, meaning they’ll be “limited to phones initially” premium and mid-range.
Interestingly, Qualcomm also said the Snapdragon Satellite will appear in “other device categories across the computing, automotive, and IoT segments,” meaning we can expect support for it in future laptops, cars, and more.
Analysis: Start to satellite text message
Satellite news has become one of the hottest topics of this week’s MWC 2023 show (which you can follow on our MWC 2023 live blog). And this Qualcomm announcement shows it’s going to be one of the biggest features in 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 provides two-way satellite communications using another service called Bullitt Satellite Messenger. Also announced was the Defy Satellite Link (pictured above), a Bluetooth key fob that also brings the service to older Android phones and iPhones.
But while Qualcomm and Bullitt’s satellite messaging services essentially promise the same service – two-way messaging in remote areas – they are based on different networks and operate in different ways. While Qualcomm promises that the Snapdragon Satellite will “offer truly global pole-to-pole coverage” (as long as you can see the open sky), Bullitt’s satellite coverage is a bit more limited.
Qualcomm’s service will also integrate with your Android phone’s SMS instead of requiring a separate app. But we don’t yet know how much the Snapdragon Satellite will cost. Bullitt Satellite Messenger, however, gives us an estimated amount of $4.99 / £4.99 per month (around $9) for the ability to send 30 two-way messages and access to the SOS assistance service.
Both Qualcomm and Bullitt’s services are more comprehensive than Apple’s Emergency SOS, and we expect the first Snapdragon Satellite Android phones to land later this year. While satellite text messaging remains a relatively niche feature for now, it will be interesting to see how both Apple and Samsung respond.