Qualcomm shuts down Snapdragon Satellite before it ships

  • November 11, 2023

Qualcomm scraps plans to offer a satellite SOS feature for Android phones that would have been on par with what Apple offers on its latest iPhones. The feature, Snapdragon Satellite, was announced in partnership with satellite communications company Iridium in January. Now, after 10 months, the program is already dead.

Iridium said Thursday that Qualcomm had “chosen to terminate” its relationship with the feature because no other smartphone maker had signed up to use it. The feature had been “successfully developed and demonstrated,” Iridium wrote. But apparently, there was no interest.

Qualcomm told CNBC that it will continue to work with Iridium on “principles-based solutions” for satellite connectivity, as it ditches the “proprietary solution” they have already developed. That suggests Qualcomm may still try to bring satellite connectivity features to Android phones down the road — but the initial lack of interest in the technology suggests it may not be there anytime soon.

The price may be one of the reasons why the Snapdragon Satellite never gets off the ground

Snapdragon Satellite was intended to compete with the Apple Emergency SOS feature, which was introduced in 2022 on the iPhone 14. This feature, in collaboration with the satellite company Globalstar, allows iPhone users to warn of emergencies or request road assistance via the satellite network when they are out. of the range of standard mobile service. The service is currently offered for free, but Apple will start charging users for satellite connectivity next year. The price of the service has not been announced.

The price may be one of the reasons why the Snapdragon Satellite never gets off the ground. Someone needs to pay Iridium to access its satellites, and this plan will include Qualcomm among those payments. Smartphone makers may not like the idea of ​​offering a service that is ultimately owned by Qualcomm.

That could explain why Qualcomm is now looking at a standards-based approach to satellite connectivity, which could potentially allow the smartphone maker to control relationships with satellite companies. Google was found to be building support for emergency satellite services into Android in August.

Satellite connectivity is now shipped with all new iPhones, but Apple still hasn’t proven the need for the service. Apple currently covers the costs, so until users start paying, we won’t know if people really see satellite connectivity as a must-have.

Iridium remains optimistic that phone makers will eventually come around and believe this is a feature users will want. “We also engaged with smartphone OEMs, other chip makers, and smartphone operating system developers that we’ve worked with in the past, as well as potential new partners,” Jordan Hassin, Iridium’s senior director of communications, said. The Verge.