emergency calls soon on Android

emergency calls soon on Android

With its Snapdragon Satellite function, Qualcomm will allow high-end Android smartphones to pass emergency communications by satellite anywhere on the planet. A solution similar to that of Apple… with a few differences.

Satellite communication is undoubtedly the innovation that is becoming essential on high-end smartphones. It allows you to send SMS regardless of location and circumstances, including in white areas that are not covered by the wireless network – such as a huge national park or a very large body of water – and does not therefore receive no signal, or in areas where the weather and geography impose technical challenges and high costs to install relay antennas. It can also be lifesaving in emergency situations, in the event of a natural disaster for example, when terrestrial communication networks are out of service (see our full article on the subject).

After Apple, which got the ball rolling a few months ago by integrating this emergency communication system into its latest iPhone 14 – which has already saved the lives of several people – it will soon be the turn of smartphones. Android to benefit from it. To On the occasion of CES 2023 in Las Vegas, Qualcomm, the processor and mobile connection specialist, unveiled its service with the unequivocal name, Snapdragon Satellite, which inaugurates the availability of this type of function on a wide range of Android smartphones. . The mobile chip specialist will rely for this on the Iridium satellite network and Garmin Response, the coordination center for professional emergency interventions of the specialist in connected watches, as well as on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, its brand new SoC. very high-end mobile. An announcement that comes a few weeks after Google announced support for this technology in Android 14.

Snapdragon Satellite: send and receive messages anywhere, anytime

One of the big advantages of Snapdragon Satellite if compared to Apple’s system is that the user can enjoy it anywhere and anytime as long as there is a piece of sky above. from him. Indeed, the firm at the apple collaborates with Globalstar and its 24 satellites which depend on relay stations on the ground to be able to communicate the data. This can be problematic if the user needs help while his boat is sinking in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or if he is in an area where there is no relay at the ground for the satellites used by Apple. In addition, the iPhone 14 emergency SOS function is limited to only a few countries – including France.

© Qualcomm

Iridium, for its part, has no less than 66 satellites – plus 9 spares – located at a lower altitude and which form a constellation including inter-satellite communications – that is to say, they communicate with each other. Therefore, they are able to transmit data anywhere in the world, without the geographic limitations that come with relying on relays. Matthew Desch, CEO of Iridium, assures that his network allows the satellite communication service to operate to its full potential. “Our LEO satellites [NDRL : en orbite terrestre basse] technologies span all parts of the globe and support low-power, low-latency connections that are ideal for satellite communication services.” he promises. The only condition: to have a smartphone equipped with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip – the most high-end SoC from Qualcomm, which is arriving on new sizes – and the Snapdragon X70 modem.

Snapdragon Satellite is easy to use. Thus, the smartphone will indicate to the user the direction in which he must be oriented in order to properly pick up a signal – towards the nearest satellite therefore. He can then send an SMS – with an unlimited number of characters and emoji, but no photo or video, or audio call – not only to the local emergency services – via a dedicated application – but also to one of his contacts – via a standard application, such as WhatsApp for example –, where Apple is limited to emergencies.

Snapdragon Satellite: a communication service superior to that of Apple?

On paper, Snapdragon Satellite seems technically superior to Apple’s emergency communications system. But the many gray areas surrounding it could well harm it, unlike that of the Apple, which is already thought out and operational from A to Z. Indeed, what Qualcomm offers is not a service to part which is directly provided to the user, but a technology made available to its various partners for the devices which integrate its chip. Thus, it is the manufacturers, operators and messaging services (WhatsApp, Messenger, running applications, etc.) who will have to decide on the implementation, use, limitations, interface and above all the high cost of such a service. Therefore, the service will vary from one manufacturer to another.

© Qualcomm

Apple, on the contrary, has already completely integrated this service into its iPhone 14. The user answers different questions — Is it a car accident, illness or injury, a fire or a crime? Are you lost or locked up? Are you the only one concerned, is it someone else or several people? Do you have pain or injuries? — in order to send a message pre-recorded in the terminal which automatically integrates the GPS position. He can also attach his medical file which will have been previously saved in his device. Everything has been thought and realized, from the software integration to the ease of subscribing to a protection plan – the offer is free for at least two years. Also, to compete with Apple, Qualcomm partners who decide to offer Snapdragon Satellite will have to create a software offer as well as a technical and commercial offer adapted to each country where they operate. Suffice to say that it is not won.

The first smartphones offering this service will be announced towards the end of the first half of 2023, for marketing starting in the second half – which raises the question of the Samsung Galaxy S23, whose official announcement is expected in February. Models with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 already released will not be equipped with it. Qualcomm intends to extend the Snapdragon Satellite function to tablets, connected watches, automobiles and any other product that can be equipped with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. The price of such a service remains to be seen…