The Pixel 9 reportedly gears up for satellite SOS support

The smallest Pixel 9, with three cameras?!
Enlarge / The smallest Pixel 9, with three cameras?!

Google has done a lot of work on Android to support satellite messaging, and it would certainly be nice if someone shipped some hardware that it could use. Despite the feature launching with the iPhone 14 in 2022, Android makers haven’t been very receptive to copying the idea of ​​satellite messaging. Qualcomm and satellite company Iridium built a working solution and integrated it with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips, just to zero Android manufacturers support this feature, causing the partnership to dissolve. If Google wants to play with an Android satellite SMS phone, it looks like it will have to build the device itself.

Kamila Wojciechowska, a reliable leaker at Android Authority, claims that Google is working on this. It appears that the Pixel 9 will receive an emergency SOS via satellite. Since the Pixel 6, Pixel phones have been the rare devices not to use Qualcomm modems. Google is partnering with Samsung and basing its Pixel Tensor chips on Samsung Exynos chips, which also means using Samsung’s (usually much maligned) modems. Citing a source, Wojciechowska claims that the Pixel 9 would use the new Exynos 5400 modem, as well as its optional NTN (non-terrestrial network) capabilities, allowing the phone to be “the first to support native satellite implementation Android”. The initial service provider would be T-Mobile (just like the good old days).

This decision would make sense. The original goal of the Nexus/Pixel line was to give Google something to build Android on. By integrating the latest hardware features into the next Pixel, Android gets a target to program and test on. Otherwise we would have a chicken and egg problem where no one makes the hardware because there is no software support, and no one makes software because there is no hardware to support. program. Google does all of this at once.

As for who would power T-Mobile’s satellite network, the company has a high-profile partnership with SpaceX, but those are LTE towers in space and run on regular devices without special software (the recent demo was on a normal set of iPhones). ). The benefit of implementing Android satellite lies in solving traditional satellite problems such as aiming at a distant satellite, over-compressing the message to get to the satellite, and dealing with an unreliable connection . This isn’t really relevant to the SpaceX partnership, as it attempts to be a next-generation “regular LTE in space” solution, built around the world’s largest network of rockets and satellites.

We’re just speculating here, but a better target for a “current generation” system would be Skylo, which resells services from traditional satellite companies like Viasat and Inmarsat, so it would need all that little targeting and connection software. reliable. In a crazy coincidence, Skylo has already issued a press release stating that it has certified the Samsung Exynos Modem 5400 for use on its network. Skylo already has a relationship with T-Mobile and the company powers the Motorola Satellite Link hotspot.

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