Qualcomm, the popular chip manufacturer for Android devices, had planned to offer satellite connectivity capabilities to smartphone manufacturers. The company showcased its technology to journalists earlier this year and had partnerships with Xiaomi, Motorola, and Oppo. However, last week, satellite connection provider Iridium announced that Qualcomm had terminated its agreements with manufacturers, resulting in a setback for the inclusion of satellite services in smartphones.
According to the press release, although the technology was successfully developed and demonstrated, smartphone manufacturers did not integrate it into their devices. Iridium CEO Matt Desch expressed disappointment but believes that the trend towards increased satellite connectivity in consumer devices is clear. He also mentioned Apple’s role in spearheading satellite offerings and mentioned that mobile network operators and device manufacturers are still expected to expand coverage and introduce new satellite-based features.
Instead of relying on Qualcomm, Iridium plans to directly pursue partnerships with device manufacturers to bring satellite connectivity to smartphones. Qualcomm confirmed that while it will continue collaborating with Iridium on standards-based solutions, it will discontinue efforts on the proprietary satellite solution introduced earlier this year.
Android currently lacks satellite connectivity options, unlike Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite feature. However, Google’s Pixel smartphones are rumored to enable hidden satellite connectivity capabilities through Android 14. Code suggests connectivity with Garmin’s Response service, which is supported by Iridium’s infrastructure.
The availability of satellite connectivity for Pixel users before other Android devices remains to be seen. However, it is expected to come with a cost, as Garmin’s emergency services already require a monthly subscription. Apple also plans to eventually charge for its Emergency SOS via Satellite feature. Nevertheless, satellite connectivity for calling for help during emergencies is becoming an increasingly valuable feature for flagship smartphones, as demonstrated by the lives saved through the availability of this feature on the iPhone.