Google Message code hints at satellite messaging beyond emergencies — here’s what you need to know

 Google Messages.
Google Messages.

Google Messages may be getting expanded satellite communication options for users in a move that could keep users connected in the event of an emergency. And there may be uses for the feature beyond emergency connectivity.

Back in March, reports emerged of a "Satellite SOS" option appearing in Google Messages on the Pixel 8 and the Pixel 7a. At the time the idea appeared to be that Google was offering something akin to the Emergency SOS via satellite capability found on recent iPhones that allows people to send text alerts when there's no cellular connectivity around.

Now, a recent APK teardown from 9to5 Google found lines of code that indicate the Google Messages app might be using satellite connectivity for expanded uses. The new lines of code were discovered in the beta version 20240329_01_RC00 of the Google Messages App.

According to the 9to5 Google report, three lines of code explain how the feature will work. The first line states, “to send and receive, stay outside with a clear view of the sky.” This is one of the clearer lines, and it makes sense with how satellite communication works and what it requires compared to other options.

The second line states that “Satellite messaging may take longer and can’t include photos & videos” which is, again, pretty understandable. The issue is that satellite communication does not offer high-quality images, primarily due to how long it would take to send the image.

The final line is the more interesting one: “You can message with anyone, including emergency services.” This line indicates that satellite messaging won’t be locked to emergencies. This would be a drastic step from the norm, for instance when compared to Apple. iPhones have offered satellite communication since 2022, but users can primarily contact emergency services. Apple allows users to connect with roadside assistance and share their location via the Find My Phone feature.

That line of code could be interpreted as offering Messages users more ways to connect with friends and family.

There's no indication on whether this connectivity option would be looked to networks or regions, or if you could use satellite communication to connect with anyone regardless of location.

Satellite communication is expected to come to Android devices when Android 15 comes out later this year. The updated software has already seen two developer previews, with a beta expected ahead of the Google I/O  developer conference in May.

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