Update: Snapdragon Satellite is being shut down in December 2023. Read more here, but the original article follows.
Back in January, Qualcomm announced that it too had an answer to the iPhone 14’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature in the form of Snapdragon Satellite. Now the company has announced the first wave of smartphone manufacturers that will support this feature in the near future.
At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Qualcomm says it's partnered with Honor, Motorola, OPPO, Vivo, Nothing and Xiaomi to start offering satellite communication features to customers.
Qualcomm hasn’t revealed many more details about this partnership, including when Snapdragon Satellite might debut on phones from these six companies. Back when the feature was first announced, Qualcomm indicated that the rollout would begin in North America and Europe in the second half of 2023 — and with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 to boot.
Whether that rollout will start in time for the launch of devices like the Nothing Phone (2) is unclear, but it would help those phone makers compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung. Samsung deliberately didn’t offer satellite connectivity with the Galaxy S23 series, while Qualcomm has claimed its system would offer two-way satellite text messaging — something the iPhone 14 can’t do.
Of course the Motorola Defy Satellite Link, which was announced at MWC 2023, will launch this April — bringing with it emergency SOS and two-way text messaging. It promises to offer satellite connectivity to any smartphone, and for the price of $99 (plus at least $5 a month in subscription fees). That means Qualcomm and its partners better hustle if they want to come out on top.
Qualcomm claims Snapdragon Satellite will offer “true global coverage from pole to pole” and will function so long as you have an open view of the sky. It’ll also offer some recreational use, rather than just contacting emergency services — potentially letting people stay connected no matter how remote a location they’re in. How much this recreational connectivity might cost is unclear right now.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens with Snapdragon Satellite, but it’s certainly starting to feel like this kind of connectivity might be the next big frontier in the smartphone business. Hey, if it helps save lives, we’re certainly all in favor of it.