Android 15 satellite connectivity could get a huge boost from Google Maps

Android 15
(Image credit: Future)

We already know that satellite-based communication is coming to Android 15, but many of the specifics of how that communication will work are still unknown. The latest leak suggests that the system could integrate with the Google Maps app, which makes perfect sense.

This information comes from AssembleDebug (via PiunikaWeb) who found code inside the latest Google Maps beta (v11.125) detailing how users may be able to update their location in the Google Maps app and send it to someone else via a satellite link.

The downsides are that there's a 15-minute cooldown between updates, and you’re limited to 5 updates per day. This means you can update people on your whereabouts without having to message anyone, because it could be as simple as letting Google Maps tell them for you.

It's unclear how this sharing system will work, but we can look to Apple to see how Google might implement satellite-based location sharing. Apple's Find My app can transmit your location via satellite when there's no cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity. But you can only divulge your location to friends you're already sharing your location with. You can update this location every 15 minutes, but there's no mention of how many times you can update each day.

It makes sense that a free service primarily designed for emergency use would have some kind of limitation, though. You don’t want people clogging up the bandwidth with frivolous updates, and it’s not like there aren’t satellite communication services out there that let you pay for additional access. Assuming they are supported by the Pixel 9 and other Android phones with satellite support.

How Android 15 satellite communication will work

Meanwhile, Nail Sadykov on Telegram found evidence of something called “Android Satellite Pointing UI." From the looks of the video posted to an unofficial Google News channel on Telegram, this seems to be a step-by-step process to help users to connect to any satellites that are orbiting overhead. Much in the same way that iOS does, if you ever need to use the Emergency SOS with satellite feature.

Judging from the clip you’ll need to hold your phone in front of you and move it around to try and connect with a satellite. Once the satellite has been located, you’ll have to keep moving your phone until the blue satellite icon is in the middle of the on-screen circle. Holding your phone in that position will connect you to the satellite, but if not you’ll be told the connection failed — meaning you have to start over.

We’ll probably hear more about Google’s satellite connectivity plans, along with other incoming features for Android 15 at Google I/O next month. Be sure to check out our Google I/O 2024 hub for all the latest news and rumors about what we can expect at the event, as well as our Android 15 hub for the latest news and leaks. 

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.