Technology

Google Pixel 9 to get new modem, satellite connectivity

Most people don’t consider the modem when considering buying a new phone, and why should they? Unfortunately, this is something that many Pixel users are increasingly having to learn. In recent years, connectivity issues have become one of the series’ biggest problems. Fortunately, the situation has improved over the generations and the next Pixel 9 series will be even better.

Thanks to a Google insider, Android Authority has learned about some of the modem upgrades coming to the Pixel 9 series, which bring significant improvements including satellite connectivity.

The importance of a better modem

Google tensor processor

Modems have been a known source of problems on Pixels since Google switched to its semi-custom Tensor chips in 2021. Since the chips were developed in conjunction with Samsung’s S.LSI division, Google opted to use Exynos modems to simplify development, unlike previous ones. Pixels, which used solutions from Qualcomm.

Unfortunately, the stability of software running on the new modems was poor, especially at first. In my personal experience with the Pixel 6, for example, I encountered cases where the modem crashed and even took other subsystems, such as sensors, offline with it! I certainly wasn’t alone in experiencing connectivity issues with the Pixel 6.

Fortunately, as the new platform matured, problems became rarer, especially after the Tensor G2 switched to a new modem – Exynos Modem 5300 (which is also used on the Pixel 8 series). The modem poses fewer problems today than before. However, it’s worth mentioning that it’s still not perfect. For example, Pixel 7 and 8 users have reported issues since the March 2024 update. In our own recent survey, almost 60% of respondents said they experienced these issues!

A new modem supporting satellite connectivity is coming to the Pixel 9 series, the next-gen Fold and a 5G tablet.

The Tensor G4, the first in the Pixel 9 series, brings a brand new modem: the Samsung Modem 5400. While it’s not a Qualcomm modem like some would prefer, it’s still an upgrade level compared to previous generations. Our source couldn’t give exact specifications, but, as always, we can expect it to be faster and more power efficient than previous generations. Additionally, the software stack has been upgraded again, which should improve stability. Finally, there is support for 3GPP Rel. 17 which supports 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN), or in other words satellite communications.

The modem will be available on all cellular-enabled Tensor G4 devices, including the Pixel 9 series and the next-generation Pixel Fold. Our source also informed us that Google is in the early stages of developing a 5G tablet, codenamed “clementine”, with the same modem. However, it is not yet clear when – and if – the device will be released.

Exynos 5123 ModemExynos 5300 modemExynos 5400 Modem

Associated to

Exynos 5123 Modem

Tensor (first generation)

Exynos 5300 modem

Tensor G2, Tensor G3

Exynos 5400 Modem

Tensor G4

Supported 5G specification

Exynos 5123 Modem

3GPP release 15

Exynos 5300 Modem

3GPP release 16

Exynos 5400 Modem

3GPP release 17

Support for satellite connectivity

Exynos 5123 Modem

No

Exynos 5300 Modem

No

Exynos 5400 Modem

Yes

Devices

Exynos 5123 Modem

Pixel 6, 6a series

Exynos 5300 modem

Pixel 7 series, 7a, 8 series, 8a, Pixel Fold

Exynos 5400 Modem

Pixel 9 series, new generation Pixel Fold, future 5G tablet (“clementine”)

Satellite connectivity for future Pixels

Android satellite messaging settings

As we previously reported, Google has made significant progress in integrating satellite messaging support into Android 15. With NTN support in the Exynos 5400 modem, the Pixel 9 series will the first to support the native satellite implementation of Android.

Initially, the feature will be provided by T-Mobile (built in collaboration with SpaceX), and other providers may be added in the future. The satellite link will allow you to send SMS, but not to call. In addition, a special “Satellite Gateway” application will allow easy communication with emergency services via a feature called “Emergency SOS”.

Pixel 9 Satellite Gateway app icon: A black satellite icon on a pinkish-red circular background

The “Satellite Gateway” application icon

We’ve already seen previous indicators of how this might work, but now we can preview them in more detail. First, you will be asked some basic questions to narrow down the situation. You will also have the choice to notify your emergency contacts, after which you can message the emergency services to get the help you need. Many questions will also have predefined answers to choose from to speed up the process. We’ve listed some of the questions in the table below, to give a general idea of ​​how it works.

Questions

What happened?

(Are you/Is they/Is everyone) breathing?

In total, how many people are (missing/trapped)?

What best describes your situation?

What’s on fire?

Are there weapons involved?

What type of vehicle or vessel?

Do any of these apply?

Due to the nature of satellite connectivity, mobile solutions that use it typically require very specific alignment to connect. Google has designed animations to make this process easier, like the one below:

The satellite connectivity feature will also be available on the next-generation Pixel Fold, as indicated by the following message found in the app:

Coded

To connect to the satellite, unfold your phone and rotate it %d degrees counter clockwise

Still not Qualcomm, but a welcome upgrade regardless

While the modem upgrade we see here may not be the significant upgrade we wanted, we hope it will result in fewer issues, which is obviously good to see. Especially since the Tensor G4 is nothing more than a refreshed Tensor G3. It was only created because Google’s completely custom chip missed the 2024 deadline.

News Source : www.androidauthority.com
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