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Android Emergency SOS via Satellite rivals will soon be common

Android Emergency SOS via Satellite equivalent services look set to become the norm on higher-end phones, within a few months of Apple first activating the service late last year.

MediaTek is the latest company to offer a radio chip with support for satellite comms, following earlier announcements by Qualcomm and Samsung

Background

The iPhone 14’s Emergency SOS via Satellite feature was one of the headline announcements made during the launch event, and the reason for the Far Out name and space visuals. It went live in the US and Canada in November, rolling out to four more countries a month later.

The service operates via Globalstar satellites specifically designed to provide services to smartphones. It allows access to 911 services when you are in isolated areas without cellular coverage.

The service will eventually be subscription-based, but Apple says it will be free for all iPhone 14 owners in compatible countries for the first two years. We don’t yet know what the subscription will cost at the end of the free period.

The service is currently text-only, with the iPhone prompting the user for all the information needed by rescuers, and then sending it in a compressed format.

It has already been credited with more than one rescue, and described as a game-changer by search and rescue teams.

Emergency SOS via Satellite Android rivals

So far, there are still no Android smartphones offering satellite comms, but that is set to change in the very near future.

Samsung yesterday announced its own plans, albeit without any dates. Qualcomm had previously announced that its Snapdragon X70 modem will support satellite comms, and will be coming to Android phones later this year. Today, MediaTek has announced that we’ll see Android phones with an Emergency SOS via Satellite style service even earlier, with its latest chip soon making its debut in two models.

9to5Google reports:

MediaTek confirmed that Bullitt will be the first to launch satellite connectivity based on MediaTek hardware, starting with the CAT S75 smartphone, as well as the Motorola Defy 2 smartphone. CAT S75 is available for pre-order starting today, while Defy 2 is launching in Q2.

Additionally, Motorola will also be launching the satellite equivalent of a mobile hotspot device, the Defy Satellite Link. This will allow any smartphone to gain satellite comms capability via Bluetooth, as of sometime next quarter. The device itself will cost $99, or $149 with a basic 12-month subscription covering 30 messages per month.

The race for photo and video transmission

Current smartphone satellite comms tech is limited to text messages, but the next milestone will be to add support for the transmission of both photos and video. Apple already has a patent for expanding its own service to photos, video, and more, and Samsung said yesterday that it has the same capability in the works.

Based on this technology, Samsung’s future Exynos modems will support two-way text messaging as well as high-definition image and video sharing.

Image: NASA render of Starling cube satellites


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