Samsung had long been expected to add satellite communications to its phones when it launched the Samsung Galaxy S23 lineup. The feature had been popular on the competing iPhone 14 when Apple launched Emergency SOS via satellite. However, yesterday’s (Feb. 1) Samsung Unpacked came and went and the rumored feature was nowhere to be found.
Now we know why. CNET reported that in a pre-Unpacked interview, Samsung’s President of Mobile Experience TM Roh acknowledged the lack of satellite connectivity on the new flagship Samsung Phones and understood why people would want such a feature. However, he simply thinks it's too soon for Samsung to adopt the feature given its limited functionality.
Samsung sans satellite: Why would the Galaxy S23 skip the feature?
Roh isn’t wrong about the limits of satellite connectivity at this stage. When Apple announced Emergency SOS via satellite, it stressed that complications that can arise. While its satellite connectivity safety feature can work in as little as 15 seconds, heavy foliage and obstructions can render the feature completely unusable. You truly need an unobstructed line of site with a satellite for it to work at this time.
This isn’t to say that Roh is opposed to adding the feature to future Samsung phones. In his words (via translator) “When there is the right timing, infrastructure and the technology [is] ready, then of course for Samsung Galaxy, for our mobile division, we would also actively consider adopting this feature as well.”
That thinking tracks with a comment provided to us by satellite expert Peter Kibutu, Advanced Technology Lead for Non-Terrestrial Networks at TTP. Kibutu thinks that Samsung is, “likely biding its time as the industry catches up with standardisation.” One such standard Kibutu thinks Samsung is waiting on is 3GPP standards, which, “will eventually enable handsets to ‘roam’ between multiple satellite providers and deliver ubiquitous high-performance connectivity beyond emergency services.”
Given that currently, companies like Apple need to build out their own satellite networks, usually through third-party partners, Samsung waiting for standards to allow a phone to pick up any — or most — satellites before rolling out its own satellite communication features.
If Samsung wants to roll out the ability to make certain communications via satellite on its new phones, they may not need to work on it alone. Qualcomm, who just provided a bespoke Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for the entire S23 lineup, is working on its own version of Emergency SOS via satellite.
Qualcomm announced a partnership with the Iridium satellite network and Garmin Response emergency rescue services at CES 2023 to offer emergency communications via satellite on Android phones later this year through a “Snapdragon Satellite” app. The feature is expected to roll out on Snapdragon 8 Gen 2-powered devices in North America and Europe. It is expected to start as a two-way emergency messaging service, but Qualcomm eventually wants to expand to sending regular texts and other messages in remote areas where cellular service is not available.
Don’t let the lack of satellite connectivity turn you off from the Samsung Galaxy S23 lineup though if you’re looking to upgrade. Our early S23 hands-on impressions have us impressed with the latest Samsung flagship despite no substantial new features compared to the S22. We’ve also gone hands-on with the Galaxy S23 Ultra and its insane 200MP camera.
If you are looking to pre-order there are already a ton of great Samsung Galaxy S23 deals out there, including $1,000 off on the S23 Ultra at AT&T. So check out our deals guide now to get the best price.