Qualcomm has announced that its new processors and modems will allow phones to communicate with the Iridium satellite network, letting users send and receive messages even in areas without cell coverage. The Verge reports: The feature, called Snapdragon Satellite, will be available in phones that have both Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and its X70 Modem system, along with some additional radios. Phones that support it should be “launched in select regions starting in the second half of 2023,” according to the company’s press release, and there are several manufacturers working on designs, according to Francesco Grilli, a Qualcomm spokesperson who helped conduct a briefing for journalists. For now, the feature will likely only be available in flagship Android phones, as Qualcomm’s only including the tech in its premium chips. Companies that want to add it to their phones will work directly with Qualcomm to figure out the software and hardware, but they shouldn’t have to build new relationships with Iridium, according to Grilli. To the satellites, phones with the tech will look like any other Iridium-enabled devices. As for who will pay for the messages, “the cost of the satellite-based messaging service and dependent services will depend on OEMs and service providers and how they choose to offer the service,” according to Grilli.
At first, Snapdragon Satellite will be limited to use in emergency situations, letting you contact someone for help even if you’re in a remote area without cell service. According to Grilli, “Snapdragon Satellite leverages Garmin Response.” When you send an SOS, “response coordinators immediately see the customer’s Latitude/Longitude in their proprietary mapping and response coordination software to determine the appropriate agency to coordinate the rescue.” Qualcomm says that, eventually, it’ll support “premium messaging,” which will likely cost extra and will have to be implemented by OEMs, cell carriers, or other over-the-top service providers. So far, this isn’t something Apple offers; you can only send texts via satellite using its SOS feature.
While Qualcomm says the emergency service will be free or very cheap, it hasn’t provided details yet on how much it’ll cost you if you just want to be able to text your friends from remote areas, like a hiking trail, ski lift, or even a boat in the middle of the ocean. Once that service becomes available, however, Qualcomm says you’ll be able to use it with your regular phone number. (That likely won’t be the case for emergency use, but it matters less there.) […] While details are sparse on what it’ll be like to actually send and receive satellite messages, it sounds like the experience will be similar to Apple’s in that you’ll have to follow instructions on your phone to point it toward a satellite. According to Grilli, your phone will be able to predict where Iridium’s satellites are months in advance thanks to the way its constellation orbits the Earth. When you go to connect to one, it’ll use GPS and other measurements to determine where you need to be facing…
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