Qualcomm announces Snapdragon Satellite, a solution created in partnership with Iridium that allows you to send and receive SMS via satellite anywhere on the planet. On paper, the iPhone 14 solution seems much less successful.
Qualcomm plays the role of supplier on more or less 90 to 95% of the models of high-end smartphones of the market in Europe. So when they add technology to their chips, it can potentially affect a lot of devices and users in our area.
During the CES 2023the San Diego company has announced the launch of a feature hitherto reserved for buyers of the latest iPhone 14 and 14 Pro : satellite communication. This is in theory compatible with all smartphones equipped with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2the new high-end chip from Qualcomm that will be found on all flagships in 2023.
What is particularly interesting in this announcement is that if Android is well and truly behind its competitor at the apple, for once, the technology offered seems superior to that of the competitor from Cupertino. We explain why.
Why Qualcomm’s solution is technically superior on paper
As presented by Qualcomm and its vice-president Francesco Grilli, the technology embedded in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 seems superior to that of the iPhone 14. Be careful however, not having tested the functionality ourselves, it is simply a question here of a statement on paper.
To create a satellite communication system, Qualcomm engineers did not launch their own satellites, as you can imagine. They teamed up with a company already well established in the industry, Iridium. This partnership will enable them to have a network of 66 satellites linked together. In theory, this “constellation” is able to cover the entire globe at all times. There are even spare satellites in case some break down.
For its part, GlobalStar, the partner chosen by Apple, integrates fewer satellites, but at a higher orbit. As a result, these must always have a link with stations located on the ground to transmit data. This has a very concrete consequence and which clearly gives the advantage to Qualcomm. If you are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or in Antarctica, areas where there are no ground relays for the satellites used by Apple, in theory an iPhone 14 should not be able to call for help, unlike a smartphone running Snapdragon 8 Gen 2.
Second notable advantage of this solution: the Iridium satellites move. If you are stuck at the bottom of a ravine, there is no guarantee that a satellite is above you. But if these are moving, maybe you can hope for one of them to pass. By the way, a dedicated interface will theoretically allow you to “aim” the satellite with an augmented reality view.
Once connected, it should only take 3-10 seconds to send a text, compared to almost a minute on the iPhone. Moreover, this is another notable advantage of the Snapdragon Satellite: it is possible to send and receive SMS, and not only to relief, but also to relatives.
There are still a lot of unknowns
It is not yet clear how all this will translate to the market. Indeed, Qualcomm struggles to offer technologies to smartphone manufacturers, the famous OEMs, who decide whether or not to integrate them into their devices. A rumor already suggested that Samsung would be in the running to adopt this solution on its Galaxy S23.
This also means that the experience can evolve from one manufacturer to another who has chosen to integrate satellite communication into their telephone. Each will have to offer its own interface for example, but also a price for a possible subscription. As a reminder, Apple has planned not to charge for this service during its first two years of use. But there is no assurance that this is the case among Android manufacturers.
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