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Satellite communication on Android just got a major setback

Qualcomm has terminated its Snapdragon Satellite partnership with Iridium, and will now work on a standards-based solution.
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Published onNovember 10, 2023

Snapdragon Satellite
TL;DR
  • Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite feature was scheduled to launch in H2 2023, but the partnership behind the technology has been terminated due to lack of adoption.
  • Qualcomm has shifted focus to a standards-based solution, while Iridium can now re-engage with smartphone OEMs and others.
  • This leaves the room open for seeing satellite connectivity features on Android in 2024.

Apple brought smartphone satellite connectivity to the limelight with the launch of the iPhone 14. In case of an emergency in supported regions, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 series can connect to a low-orbit satellite and send an SOS message, even when there is no cell signal on the phone. Android flagships don’t want to be left behind, of course, and so came along Snapdragon Satellite. But it seems that we Android fans have to wait a bit longer, as the partnership behind Snapdragon Satellite has been terminated.

As reported by CNBC, Qualcomm has ended its partnership with Iridium, the satellite communications company.

In its press release, Iridium shared that the companies had successfully developed and demonstrated satellite messaging and emergency services in Snapdragon smartphones. But despite the technical success of Snapdragon Satellite, smartphone manufacturers had not included the technology in their devices. As a result, Qualcomm had chosen to terminate the agreement.

Snapdragon Satellite on Android was said to be supported on Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phones that had additional antenna hardware. The service boasted pole-to-pole coverage and was expected to be offered in North America and Europe initially. It also promised to provide two-way messaging, letting users send and receive messages. Snapdragon Satellite was expected to launch in H2 2023, but with this announcement, we can safely presume that that is unlikely to happen anymore.

snapdragon satellite positioning

The silver lining in the announcement is that satellite communication tech is still destined to arrive on the broader Android platform. Qualcomm told CNBC that smartphone makers have “indicated a preference towards standards-based solutions” for satellite-to-phone connectivity. Qualcomm will continue to collaborate with Iridium on standards-based solutions while discontinuing efforts on the proprietary solution.

The termination of this agreement also opens up Iridium to re-engage with smartphone OEMs, other chipmakers, and smartphone OS developers with whom the company had previously collaborated.

So, while Android doesn’t look like it will get satellite connectivity features this year, there’s still plenty of scope for the feature to arrive in 2024. We look forward to seeing it on our favorite Android flagships in the coming year.