A partnership between Qualcomm and Iridium to bring satellite connectivity to Android phones has fallen apart, almost a year after its announcement. In January, the two companies introduced the Snapdragon Satellite platform, which aimed to provide satellite-based SMS and emergency messaging to high-end smartphones. However, Iridium announced on Thursday that Qualcomm will be canceling the partnership, effective December 3.
According to Iridium’s statement, although the technology was developed and demonstrated successfully, smartphone manufacturers have not included it in their devices. This suggests that the Snapdragon Satellite platform may have faced technical issues or failed to attract interest from smartphone vendors.
The collapse of the partnership is a setback for enabling satellite connectivity on Android phones. In contrast, Apple has been offering satellite-based emergency messaging on its latest iPhones. Nonetheless, Iridium remains optimistic about the satellite connectivity phone market. The company currently operates 66 low-Earth orbiting satellites for its own services and devices. Iridium now has the opportunity to re-engage with smartphone OEMs, other chipmakers, and smartphone operating system developers.
In addition to Iridium, SpaceX is also working on launching a cellular satellite service, pending FCC approval. This system will utilize the Starlink constellation to provide satellite connectivity to unmodified T-Mobile phones. AT&T is also attempting to enable a similar option through a forthcoming satellite provider named AST SpaceMobile. Furthermore, Samsung has hinted at plans to bring satellite connectivity to its Galaxy S24 phones next year.
While this particular partnership did not come to fruition, Iridium’s CEO Matt Desch believes that the industry is moving towards increased satellite connectivity in consumer devices. Therefore, it is possible that an alternative partnership or solution may be on the horizon.