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Following the successful launch of the iPhone 14’s Emergency SOS via Satellite feature late last year, it seems that Android phones are catching up fast with the addition of similar services within the next few months. MediaTek is the latest company to offer a radio chip with support for satellite comms, joining earlier announcements made by Qualcomm and Samsung.
Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite was a standout feature during its launch event and the reason for its Far Out name and space visuals. It is currently available in the US and Canada and has rolled out to four more countries a month later. The service operates through Globalstar satellites that are specifically designed to provide services to smartphones, giving access to 911 services when there is no cellular coverage in isolated areas.
The service will be subscription-based in the future, but for the first two years, Apple has made it free for all iPhone 14 owners in compatible countries. The subscription cost at the end of the free period is not yet known. At present, the service is text-only, with the iPhone prompting the user for all the information needed by rescuers, and then sending it in a compressed format.
The Emergency SOS via Satellite service has already been credited with more than one rescue and described as a game-changer by search and rescue teams. Currently, there are no Android smartphones offering satellite comms, but that is set to change very soon.
Samsung has announced its plans, although without any dates, and Qualcomm has previously announced that its Snapdragon X70 modem will support satellite comms and will be coming to Android phones later this year. Now, MediaTek has announced that its latest chip will soon make its debut in two models, offering Emergency SOS via Satellite style service even earlier.
MediaTek has 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. The CAT S75 is available for pre-order starting today, while Defy 2 is launching in Q2.
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Motorola will also launch the satellite equivalent of a mobile hotspot device, the Defy Satellite Link, which will allow any smartphone to gain satellite comms capability via Bluetooth, starting sometime next quarter. The device itself will cost $99, or $149 with a basic 12-month subscription covering 30 messages per month.
Although current smartphone satellite comms tech is limited to text messages, the next milestone will be to add support for the transmission of both photos and video. Apple has already filed a patent for expanding its own service to photos, video, and more, and Samsung has announced that it has the same capability in the works. It looks like the Emergency SOS via Satellite feature is becoming the norm on high-end phones.