British smartphone firm Bullitt has launched a new phone capable of sending text messages via space, joining a crowded race to commercialize satellite-enabled devices. The phone comes in two versions: the Caterpillar-branded Cat S75 and the Motorola Defy 2. Both phones come with 5G connectivity, a 6.6-inch display, and a 5,000 milliampere-hour battery, which Bullitt claims can last up to two days.
The messages are beamed to geostationary satellites about 22,000 miles above the equator, then sent back down to earth-based network infrastructure before reaching the user’s device. The user receives the message as a standard SMS, but they need to have Bullitt Messenger — the firm’s proprietary satellite messaging app — installed in order to respond. Texts take around 10 seconds to go through, which is much slower than the near-instant speed of cell phones. The satellite connection is only turned on when a user falls outside the reach of Wi-Fi or mobile network signals.
Bullitt has joined the race to commercialize satellite-enabled devices, and competition is heating up. Other companies like Astrocast and Hiber are developing new technologies to make use of Low Earth Orbit satellites for improved coverage in remote areas. While satellite connections are slower than cellular connections, their ability to provide coverage to areas without Wi-Fi or cellular network signals may be a big selling point for companies looking to differentiate their products.
Meanwhile, established players such as Samsung and Apple are also making moves to offer satellite communications in their handsets. Late last year, Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, a phone that supports satellite connectivity and can automatically switch over to satellite connection when a user is out of range of other networks.
It’s clear that the mobile space race is just beginning, and it will be interesting to see how companies differentiate their products in the future. As satellite technology continues to improve and become more reliable, we may soon see satellite-enabled phones become the norm.