Six Android smartphone makers have begun implementing Qualcomm's Snapdragon Satellite Connectivity solution into their devices, which will allow users to send two-way text messages into space when out of cellular coverage.
Honor, Motorola, Nothing, OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi are developing smartphones that can connect to satellites to exchange urgent and non-urgent short messages, the San Diego-based wireless technology company said on Sunday. It was revealed at the Mobile World Congress exhibition held in Barcelona.
The device maker hasn't said when the satellite phone will be released, but Qualcomm expects the first phones to go on sale in the second half of this year.
"By integrating Snapdragon satellites into next-generation devices, our partners will be able to deliver low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite messaging capabilities through a mature, commercially available LEO global constellation that allows customers around the world to communicate outdoors." with emergency service providers, as well as family and friends,” said Francesco Greeley, vice president of product management, Qualcomm Technologies.
Additionally, Qualcomm has announced a next-generation 5G communications platform that also supports in-car satellite communications, though there are no details yet on how it will work in cars.
Last fall, Apple opened the door to connecting a smartphone to a satellite using the iPhone 14's one-way text emergency SOS feature, which allows users to contact emergency services in partnership with terrestrial satellite provider Globalstar. SOS emergency services are provided free of charge for the first two years. Since then, the price has not been disclosed.
Qualcomm responded with the Snapdragon Satellite, which was first unveiled in January. It allows you to send two-way emergency text messages and short non-urgent text messages. The company's partner in space is Iridium, which operates 66 low-orbit satellites for global coverage.
Qualcomm hasn't said how much the satellite will cost consumers, but Greeley told The Wall Street Journal last month that the high-speed connection would cost little or nothing.
Connecting smartphones to satellites is not without its obstacles. Apple and Qualcomm's solutions require users to manually point their phones to orbit LEO satellites in the sky. A connection in space requires more battery power than a connection to a cell tower on Earth. It's not clear whether enough smartphone users will pay extra to stay connected on hikes or other trips that go beyond mobile phone range.
Nevertheless, interest in the market, which has 6.9 billion smartphone users worldwide, is high. Companies exploring the satellite-to-device business include T-Mobile, which is partnering with SpaceX's Starlink constellation, as well as AT&T and AST working with SpaceMobile, according to Rick Prentice, telecom analyst at financial firm Raymond James.
At Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm also unveiled its latest Snapdragon Auto 5G connectivity platform for satellite-enabled vehicles. According to Qualcomm, "Communications continues to play a critical role in the digital transformation of the automotive industry as it is central to the next generation of software-defined vehicles." "With 5G, Wi-Fi and Mobile Vehicle for Everything (C-V2X) and satellite connectivity, cars can gain new safety, personalization, entertainment and productivity features for end users."
This story originally appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.