Google has promised to bring satellite connectivity to Android 14. While it’s still not a feature that is enabled by default, the company is laying the software foundation for it while Qualcomm has announced that it will provide the specialized hardware in its Snapdragon chips. Google is working on adding another piece of the puzzle with a new interface in its Messages app meant for emergency SOS conversations over satellite.
The new part of the app was discovered by trusted tipster @neil_rahmouni on X (neé Twitter), showing off what we can expect from the UI once phones with the required hardware are out there. Overall, the conversation looks similar to how you’d expect a regular text message thread, but in the text entry box, it’s specified that you’re sending a “Satellite message.” There also appears to be a counter on the right, indicating how many characters you can type out per message. In the screenshots provided by the tipster, it still seems broken, showing a “-1,” but we would suspect that satellite messages will offer fewer characters than SMS.
Based on the discovered interface, it looks like you will be able to type out any text you like when you communicate with emergency services. If this isn’t simply due to the fact that the UI isn’t finished, this would be significantly more advanced than Apple’s solution for the iPhone 14 with Emergency SOS. Here, you are limited to a few pre-determined messages, allowing you to specify which kind of emergency you’re experiencing (car issue, injury or sickness, crime, lost or trapped, fire), with different follow-up questions for you to fill in depending on what you choose. Only then you can reply to emergency messages with further follow-up details.
Mishaal Rahman dug up some further information on satellite connectivity in Android 14. When attempting to do an emergency phone call without a connection, a module will make it possible for the dialer app to suggest users to switch to satellite messaging instead.
While it’s likely that you will need new hardware to leverage satellite connectivity to its full extent, it might be possible for Google and other manufacturers to upgrade the software of their existing modems with support — Google working on satellite emergency calls for one of its first-party apps would certainly suggest that we will see this functionality on Pixel phones sooner than we might think. In the meantime, you have to use stopgap solutions like Motorola’s Defy satellite Bluetooth dongle.