Qualcomm, the leading smartphone chip manufacturer, has collaborated with Iridium, which manufactures satellite phones, for developing satellite connectivity for Android smartphones. For now, the feature will only be made available for premium Android smartphones by the end of 2023. Through this technology, Android smartphones will be able to send and receive messages using satellites in remote areas which lack cellular connectivity. Due to many limitations, satellite-based communication through smartphones is limited only to sending and receiving basic text messages such as emergency SOS, which can save the lives of people stranded in remote locations that are far from any cellular towers.
Back in September of last year, Apple released a satellite connectivity feature with its iPhone 14 lineup. Apple said that it has used specially designed components and software to offer satellite connectivity on the latest iPhone. Apple said that by using this feature, iPhone users can send emergency SOS signals or their current location through Apple Maps. Apple has invested over $400 million to develop the ground infrastructure required to address these emergency SOSs. This is mainly because Apple has plans to monetize this service in the future.
Qualcomm seems to have similar plans by introducing satellite connectivity in flagship Android phones. Iridium is a globally renowned provider of satellite communications which provides voice and data services across the globe. Iridium has a constellation of 75 active satellites which allows the company to provide satellite communication services almost anywhere in the world. On the other hand, Qualcomm is the largest chip manufacturer for Android smartphones which has the largest market share when it comes to smartphone operating systems. Hence, Qualcomm's work on satellite connectivity for Android smartphones is massive news for smartphone users across the globe. This means that now Android users can also experience the emergency SOS service or send and receive texts over satellite communications. Currently, Apple is the only mainstream smartphone manufacturer to provide such a feature. But through Qualcomm, now people will have the option to use this feature without having to adhere to only one particular smartphone brand. However, even though Qualcomm will be providing this feature through their chips, it will be up to the OEM to use this feature or not.
Qualcomm has named this feature the Snapdragon Satellite, which the company has only planned to release in their flagship chips which are only seen in premium smartphones. Still, seeing the number of premium Android smartphones sold every year, the target audience is huge for Qualcomm. In terms of future expansion, Qualcomm is planning to release this feature on tablets, laptops, and cars. The company will also be working on eliminating the current restrictions to just sending emergency texts to increase its applications. But, similar to Apple, Qualcomm and collaborating OEMs might also try to monetize this service. As the number of smartphone users is increasing rapidly thanks to the wider lineup offered by Android manufacturers, the demand and applications of satellite connectivity are only expected to increase in the future as it can solve the problem of not having cell phone towers in the vicinity.