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Qualcomm's satellite texting plan is dead because phone makers aren't interested

Its Snapdragon Satellite partner, Iridium, is now free to work with OEMs and other chipmakers directly.

Karissa Bell / Engadget

Back in January, Qualcomm announced Snapdragon Satellite, a project that aimed to let Android users send texts via satellite when they don't have cell service. It would have been the company's answer to Apple's emergency SOS feature that debuted in the iPhone 14 lineup. However, the initiative hasn't worked out as Qualcomm hoped.

Qualcomm is ending its Snapdragon Satellite partnership with satellite phone maker Iridium. Although the pair "successfully developed and demonstrated the technology" smartphone makers "have not included the technology in their devices," Iridium said in a statement.

Smartphone makers have “indicated a preference towards standards-based solutions” for satellite connectivity, Qualcomm told CNBC. In other words, they're looking for a more open approach that doesn't necessarily position Qualcomm as a go-between. As The Verge notes, the cost of satellite texting may have dissuaded some manufacturers too. Apple is footing the bill for emergency SOS for the time being.

Now that its agreements with Qualcomm are coming to an end, Iridium says it will be able to work directly with smartphone makers, mobile OS developers and other chipmakers. Apple, meanwhile, has expanded its emergency SOS feature by adding crash detection integration in iPhone 15.

Elsewhere, Starlink is set to roll out its satellite SMS service next year. It plans to eventually offer satellite-powered voice and data functions directly to phones, meaning users won't necessarily need to have a Starlink terminal nearby.