Qualcomm has decided to cancel its plans to offer a satellite SOS feature for Android phones, which would have been a rival to Apple’s offering on the latest iPhones. The feature, known as Snapdragon Satellite, was announced in partnership with satellite communications company Iridium in January. However, after just 10 months, the plan has been abandoned.
Qualcomm’s satellite SOS feature for Android unfortunately did not reach its intended launch.
Iridium stated that Qualcomm chose to terminate their partnership on the feature because no smartphone manufacturer signed up to use it. Although the feature had been successfully developed and demonstrated, there simply wasn’t enough interest.
Qualcomm has informed CNBC that it will continue collaborating with Iridium on standards-based solutions for satellite connectivity, while abandoning their proprietary solution that had already been developed. This suggests that Qualcomm may still attempt to introduce satellite connectivity features for Android phones in the future, but the lack of initial interest indicates this may not happen anytime soon.
One potential reason for the demise of Snapdragon Satellite could be its price. The feature was intended to rival Apple’s Emergency SOS, which was released in 2022 on the iPhone 14 in partnership with satellite company Globalstar. Apple’s service allows users to contact emergency services or request roadside assistance via a satellite network when regular cellular service is unavailable. While the service is currently free, Apple plans to charge users for satellite communications access starting next year, although the pricing details have not been disclosed.
Price may have played a role in Snapdragon Satellite’s failure to launch. As access to Iridium’s satellites would require payment, Qualcomm would have been caught in the middle of these transactions. Smartphone manufacturers may not have been enthusiastic about offering a service that relies on Qualcomm’s management.
This could explain why Qualcomm is now exploring a standards-based approach to satellite connectivity, which would give smartphone manufacturers greater control over their relationship with satellite companies. In August, it was discovered that Google was developing support for emergency satellite services in Android.
Although satellite connectivity is already available in all new iPhones, Apple has yet to verify the demand for this service. Currently, Apple covers the costs, so we cannot gauge how essential people perceive satellite connectivity to be until users start bearing the expense.
Iridium remains optimistic that phone manufacturers will eventually recognize the appeal of this feature. Jordan Hassin, Iridium’s executive director of communications, stated to The Verge that they are reconnecting with smartphone OEMs, chipmakers, and smartphone operating system developers with whom they had previously partnered, as well as exploring new potential collaborations.