While Apple was the first to bring two-way emergency satellite messaging to the masses, we all knew that it wouldn’t be long before Google brought this feature to Android users. After all, Apple’s emergency feature has been giving the iPhone a fair bit of exposure lately.
Contained within the code are references to “Garmin” and “messaging by satellite.”
Right now, there’s nothing official from either Google or Garmin, and we’ll have to wait for the Android 14 launch later this year to see if this becomes an official feature.
Garmin has a range of satellite messaging devices, with devices such as the InReach Messenger and InReach Mini 2. These devices leverage Iridium’s constellation of 66 satellites, and based on my testing, they work really well, are incredibly reliable, and they’re a handy backup in case things turn bad.
Garmin inReach Messenger Handheld Satellite Communicator
Small, rugged, lightweight satellite communicator enables two-way text messaging even in areas with no cell coverage.
However, to bring satellite messaging to smartphones, Google is going to need devices that have satellite capability, something that at present is quite limited.
Smartphones such as the Cat S75 have built-in satellite antennas, but if Google is planning to include this feature in Android 14, then it’s likely that we’ll see mainstream manufacturers such as Samsung, Motorola and the like adding satellite support.
But there’s a question of cost.
Currently, Emergency SOS by Satellite on the iPhone is “free for two years after the activation of iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro,” and since these devices aren’t yet a year old, we don’t know how much Apple will eventually charge for this.
What I do know is that a Garmin inReach satellite subscription is not cheap.
A basic consumer plan is $14.95 per month, the minimum you need to have access to the SOS messaging feature. I can’t see the average consumer footing this sort of bill, and I’d expect that, just as with the iPhone, this feature would be offered free of charge to owners of new, high-end Android handsets, with Google footing the bill.
Having emergency access to the satellite network can save lives, and the more devices that have this, the better.