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CES 2023: This Android phone can send satellite text messages to your iPhone

One of the most remarkable features of the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro is support for satellite connectivity, allowing users to call for emergency services and send SOS messages when they can’t find a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Motorola will bring that functionality to the Android smartphone ecosystem within the next three months, according to an announcement at CES 2023. The company has partnered with the British brand Bullitt and will introduce the connectivity perk on one of its upcoming Defy series phones.

To enable satellite communication, Bullitt has created custom connectivity hardware for the phone, which works in tandem with a custom app called Bullitt Satellite Messenger. Again, the idea is to cover zones where users lose out on cellular networks or Wi-Fi coverage, especially in cases of emergencies in remote areas. The messaging part is enabled by Bullitt Satellite Messenger, which needs a subscription service that costs $5 per year.

CES 2023 promo for Bullitt's satellite connectivity.
Bullitt

But here’s the best part. The app is available for both Android and iOS platforms, which means your fancy new Motorola phone can send a message to your friend and family members rocking an iPhone. Moreover, iPhone users can respond to a message sent via a satellite relay using the aforementioned app. Bullitt says its app can be used to “send messages to any smartphone, anywhere you have a clear view of the sky.”

Notably, the app will only resort to satellite connectivity as a last-ditch measure. It will first try to find cellular airwaves or broadband signals, and in case these aren’t available, it will route the message through a satellite channel. The messages are delivered via the SMS protocol, and all you need is a clear sky to get things going.

The satellite-assisted messaging functionality has been developed in collaboration with electronics chipmaker MediaTek, critical responders FocusPoint, and Skill, which ensures an “always-in” status for a satellite-reliant messaging service. Bullitt says the satellite messaging service will be commercially released in the first quarter of 2023.

Bullitt will offer SOS Assistance for free, covering an entire year.

Sending a satellite-assisted SMS text won’t be added to your cellular carrier bill; instead, it will be deducted from the Bullitt subscription fee. As a neat bonus, the company will offer SOS Assistance for free, covering an entire year.

Satellite connectivity is going mobile in 2023

Motorola and Bullitt are not the only players in the smartphone-satellite messaging game. A few months ago, Google’s Hiroshi Lockheimer confirmed that Android 14 will enable satellite connectivity for smartphones, but didn’t delve into the hardware side of it. We’ll have to wait until Google’s I/O conference in May for more details.

Wild to think about user experiences for phones that can connect to satellites. When we launched G1 in '08 it was a stretch to get 3G + Wifi working. Now we're designing for satellites. Cool! Excited to support our partners in enabling all of this in the next version of Android!

— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) September 1, 2022

Separately, Elon Musk-led SpaceX also partnered with T-Mobile to enable satellite connectivity for the magenta carrier’s customers using the Starlink constellation of satellites. Notably, no custom hardware will be needed to get this T-Mobile offering, which covers texts, MMS, and a handful of messaging apps.

Dubbed “Coverage Above and Beyond,” the service will cover the continental U.S., Hawaii, and select regions of Alaska, Puerto Rico, and territorial waters. T-Mobile claims it will be accessible “almost anywhere a customer can see the sky” and will even let users communicate via “a little bit of video.”

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