Samsung omits satellite connectivity in Galaxy S23 series devices

Samsung revealed its latest line of smartphones, the Galaxy S23 series, and not surprisingly, the new phones are faster and take better photos than the previous generation of Samsung smartphones. The most talked about new feature is the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 200 megapixel high-res camera (an increase from the 108-megapixel camera offered in the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra).

More interesting than what the Samsung Galaxy S23 devices do include is what they don’t —satellite connectivity.  Although the Samsung Galaxy S23 devices run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform and are powered by the X70 modem, Samsung said the devices are not equipped with Snapdragon Satellite, the satellite-to-cellular connectivity service that will deliver two-way messaging using Iridium’s L-band spectrum for the uplink and downlink.

A Samsung executive told CNET at the Samsung Unpacked event yesterday in San Francisco that the satellite functionality available today for smartphones is still “too limited” but the company will consider adding the feature in the future.

Qualcomm and Iridium announced the Snapdragon Satellite service earlier this year and said that the service will first be available on Android devices that run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform and are powered by the Snapdragon 5G modem. Because the Samsung Galaxy 23 devices fit the criteria, many expected the Samsung Galaxy S23 line of smartphones would include the new Snapdragon Satellite service.

Plus, Samsung is facing pressure from Apple, which now offers an “Emergency SOS via Satellite” service for free for two years to Apple iPhone 14 users. The emergency connectivity service provides text messaging capability to people who are in remote areas with no regular cellular coverage.  

However, when Qualcomm and Iridium announced Snapdragon Satellite in early January the companies said that they didn’t expect the first Android devices with the service to become available until the second half of 2023.

Peter Kibutu, advanced technology lead for non-terrestrial networks at satellite consulting firm TTP said that he believes that Samsung may have a different approach in mind than what Apple is offering with the iPhone 14.

“To date, handset manufacturers have only been able to provide compatibility with a single satellite provider, for example, Apple with Globalstar and Qualcomm with Iridium. The 3GPP standards, which were released at the end of last year, will eventually enable handsets to ‘roam’ between multiple satellite providers and deliver ubiquitous high-performance connectivity beyond emergency services," he said in a statement.

Kibutu said he believes that some handset makers will wait until they can provide satellite service through multiple providers before they launch this type of capability.