Chip maker Qualcomm on Thursday unveiled a new product that allows users of Android smartphones to connect to satellites, outperforming the feature offered by Apple to iPhone 14 users.
Under Qualcomm’s partnership with Iridium satellite company, the product named Snapdragon Satellite can be added to Android phones and other devices to support two-way communications via Iridium satellites.
Potential uses include emergency services (SOS), short text messaging (SMS), and other low-bandwidth messaging applications in areas outside the coverage of terrestrial communications, and where Iridium satellites have obtained licenses to operate.
Any emergency messages will be routed through response teams managed by Garmin, the GPS specialist, and a longtime Iridium partner.
Earlier, Iridium was rumored to be working with Apple, which last September announced a partnership with its competitor, GlobalStar, to provide services currently limited to SOS.
Rather than partner with a specific smartphone company, Gurnal Hasen, Iridium’s chief communications officer, said the company chose to partner with Qualcomm to bring its technology into several brands of Android phones, the most popular operating system for smartphones.
In addition to supporting hardware development, Qualcomm has entered into an agreement to sell services to companies on behalf of Iridium.
To connect to the Iridium constellation of 66 satellites in low Earth orbit, smartphone makers will need to integrate the latest generation of Qualcomm’s flagship chipsets into their devices.
Hasin said that many Android companies have already integrated (Snapdragon Satellite) into their products, and the first phase of the products is expected to be launched in the second half of 2023.
In a briefing, Matt Dish, CEO of Iridium, said that the company is still studying the issue of charging Android users for using satellite communication services, and how.
Apple had said that it would provide satellite-based (SOS) services on its range of iPhone 14 smartphones for free for two years.
Francisco Grilli, Vice President of Product Management at Qualcomm, said at the press conference that the company succeeded in displaying (Snapdragon Satellite) during its participation in the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2023), which is currently being held in Las Vegas, USA.
He said the company was able to send basic text messages in an average of three seconds using a smartphone during the demo.
While the service will initially target smartphones, the two companies said they are considering expanding to other devices, including personal computers, tablets, vehicles, and small Internet of Things devices.
Desch said the company may also consider upgrading its capabilities to add higher bandwidth services later.