Snapdragon Satellite, the supposed Android competitor to the iPhone’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature, is coming to an end. Qualcomm, the maker of Snapdragon chips that power top Android phones, and satellite communications company Iridium, jointly announced the termination of the service. According to an official press release from Iridium, the satellite communications service will cease to operate on December 3rd, 2023.
Satellite communication technology first emerged on the iPhone 14 series and carried over to this year’s iPhone 15 models. Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite feature allows users to broadcast their location to emergency services or breakdown repair services when needed. In contrast, Snapdragon Satellite was expected to enable regular SMS communication via satellite in addition to emergency alerts, allowing users to stay connected even outside of areas with cellular signal.
Iridium attributed the discontinuation of the partnership with Qualcomm to the failure of phone manufacturers to implement the technology. Despite promises from companies such as Motorola, Nothing, and various Chinese phone brands to incorporate the feature in their upcoming devices, it seems these promises were not fulfilled. According to Iridium CEO Matt Desch, smartphone manufacturers have not included the technology in their devices, despite successful development and demonstration by Qualcomm and Iridium.
Qualcomm indicated that phone manufacturers showed a preference for standards-based solutions, implying that they may have been hesitant to adopt a satellite service directly tied to Qualcomm’s chips, which could have given the chipmaker even greater control over their devices.
However, there may still be hope for satellite communication on Android devices. Iridium announced that it is free to collaborate with smartphone OEMs, chipmakers, and smartphone operating system developers, indicating potential future partnerships. Qualcomm also expressed its intent to continue collaborating with Iridium on standards-based solutions.
While the present reality is that those seeking satellite communication in emergency situations will have to opt for a newer iPhone model, it is possible that Android devices will eventually incorporate satellite capabilities in a different form. Companies such as Motorola and Google have shown interest in similar technologies, with accessories like the Motorola Defy Satellite Link offering satellite SOS and messaging capabilities for any device via Bluetooth. Additionally, rumors suggest that Google Messages might support the Garmin Response network to fulfill safety purposes.