The Samsung Galaxy S23 series has several new features and Galaxy S23 Ultra it has a 200-megapixel camera that looks like it can take sharper pictures than almost any other phone on the market. But as cutting-edge as Samsung’s new premium phones are, they won’t have satellite text messaging, which is fast becoming one of the biggest phone trends of 2023.
The idea is simple: if you’re in trouble but out of cellular coverage, your phone can communicate with emergency services via satellite. It seemed futuristic until Apple introduced the iPhone 14 in September with its Emergency SOS feature and US carriers found their own satellite service partners. At CES 2023, Qualcomm unveiled Snapdragon Satellite chips for Android phones and said it plans to enable the service in the second half of this year.
It looks like the S23 series will not receive satellite text messages at all on launch day. It’s possible the S23 phones will connect to the carrier’s US satellite service later, though none of them have release dates yet. It’s possible that Samsung’s top-tier phones lag behind Apple and even other Android flagships in emergency connectivity.
It is not clear why Samsung did not include the ability to connect via satellite. It includes the two big components required for the Snapdragon Satellite: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and the Snapdragon X70 5G modem. Since Qualcomm’s feature requires phones to be designed with Snapdragon Satellite in mind, it looks like Samsung pushed the feature into its S23 phones from the get-go.
Samsung did not elaborate on its decision not to include satellite texting capability.
The lack of satellite text messaging isn’t Samsung’s biggest loss, as it’s a “nice to have” feature, as IDC research director Nabila Popal described it. Apple’s version, which can only connect users to emergency services, has already saved a few lives, but it’s more of a safety net you hope you never use than something that improves the everyday phone experience like 5G .
Satellite texting only works outside of mobile cellular networks, so most people who stay in cities and suburbs probably won’t use the feature (unless they fall into a canyon). But for digital-era daredevils who routinely leave the safety of cellular networks, the lack of satellite connectivity is one less reason to pick up the Samsung S23.
But it’s not just about urgent text messages. Down the line, satellites will also deliver data.
But what about satellite data?
Apple said Emergency SOS will only connect users to emergency services, but Qualcomm plans for Snapdragon Satellite to tap into more social uses as well. So Samsung S23 phones arriving without any satellite functionality also means they won’t be able to use satellites for non-emergency communications later on.
Qualcomm plans to expand Snapdragon Satellite beyond emergency messaging to open it up to more social texting and data usage, though it may be through a more premium subscription service. The company expects to provide voice and video communications over the line, although that will have to wait until the satellite network it partners with, Iridium, launches more satellites capable of sending and receiving more data.
Satellite operator partners will use satellites to fill gaps in their conventional mobile networks. T-Mobile contacted SpaceX’s Starlink, AT&T chose AST SpaceMobile, and Verizon chose Amazon’s Kuiper project. No one has announced when users will enjoy expanded service through satellite partners, although carriers have mentioned that some already released phones will be able to benefit, so it’s possible that Samsung S23 phones may yet tap into satellite communications.
But based on what we know, it looks like the Samsung S23 will miss out — not just today when it launches, but years from now when we discover new ways to use satellites to connect.