Android may offer a better version of the iPhone's satellite SOS — here's how

Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Android 14 is due to arrive later this fall and one new feature we expect to see is support for SOS satellite messaging, which a new leak suggests will be much more robust than what Apple introduced on the iPhone 14.

The key to Google's implementation, according to some lines of code in Android 14 uncovered by developer Neil Rahmouni, is partnering up with Garmin's existing emergency satellite messaging, which may make the Android system available in over 150 countries at launch (via SamMobile).

Truly global satellite reach

When Apple announced SOS satellite messaging last year we were a little dismissive of the feature, but that was in part due to Apple's odd marketing with a bear wandering into a cabin as one of its prime examples. I understand trying to go for a more lighthearted tone during the presentation, but it perhaps undersold its utility.

We've since seen it put into action to save lives during the Maui fires, proving the incalculable real-world value of the feature. However, it is limited in scope as the feature works only in 14 countries and won't function above 62° latitude in northern Canada or Alaska. Part of the advantage of satellite connectivity should be truly global reach and it seems that Android may deliver in that regard.

The aforementioned lines of code in Android 14 point to Google relying on Garmin Response, which in turn uses Iridium's low-earth orbit satellite network to deliver emergency SOS messaging coverage around the globe in over 150 countries. That's over a 10x upgrade on Apple's current offering.

Split image with iPhone Emergency SOS and Maui wildfire damage

(Image credit: Apple/Getty Images/YUKI IWAMURA)

I recently spent a week in Montana and Wyoming and was regularly without a cell signal while hiking and driving. Since I had an iPhone 14 Pro, it did give me some added peace of mind, so imagining that extended globally is certainly appealing.

Obviously, the hope is that you are never faced with needing to use any of these features, but if I am ever in a situation where it is necessary the last thing I would want to see is a message saying sorry that satellite messaging isn't available in my location.

Now the missing piece of the puzzle remains which Android phones will support satellite messaging, as this is both software and hardware. We've heard that Google and Samsung are likely to be among the first, so perhaps the Google Pixel 8 and Samsung Galaxy S24, which are likely to arrive in October and January, respectively. 

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.