Google Pixel 9 gets a new modem and satellite connectivity

Most people don't consider a modem when thinking about buying a new phone, and why should they? Unfortunately, this is something a lot of Pixel users are increasingly having to become familiar with. In recent years, connectivity issues have become one of the biggest issues with the series. Fortunately, the situation has improved over the generations, and the upcoming Pixel 9 series will be even better.

Thanks to a Google insider, Robot body Learned about some of the modem upgrades coming to the Pixel 9 series, which bring some important upgrades, including satellite connectivity.

The importance of having a better modem

Modems have been a known source of issues on Pixel devices since Google switched to semi-custom Tensor chips in 2021. Since the chips were developed in collaboration with Samsung's S.LSI division, Google has chosen to use an Exynos modem to simplify the development process, unlike before. Pixels, which uses solutions from Qualcomm.

Unfortunately, the stability of the software running on the new modems was poor, especially at first. In my personal experience with the Pixel 6, for example, I encountered cases where the modem would crash and disable other subsystems, such as sensors, from communicating with it! I certainly wasn't the only one experiencing Pixel 6 connectivity issues.

Fortunately, as the new platform has matured, problems have become more rare, especially after the Tensor G2 switched to a new modem – the Exynos Modem 5300 (which is also used in the Pixel 8 series). The modem is less of an issue now than it used to be. However, it is worth noting that it is still not perfect. For example, Pixel 7 and Pixel 8 users have been reporting issues since the March 2024 update. In our latest survey, nearly 60% of respondents reported experiencing these issues!

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A new satellite modem is coming to the Pixel 9 series and next-generation 5G Folds and tablets.

Coming first in the Pixel 9 series, the Tensor G4 comes with an all-new modem: the Samsung Modem 5400. Although it's not a Qualcomm modem as some would prefer, it's still an upgrade over previous generations. Our source couldn't provide any exact specifications, but as always, we can expect it to be faster and more power efficient than previous generations. In addition, the software package has been upgraded again, which improves stability. Finally, there is support for 3GPP Rel. 17 which provides support for 5G non-terrestrial networks (NTN), or satellite communications in other words.

The modem is coming to all Tensor G4 cellular-enabled devices, including the Pixel 9 series and the next-generation Pixel Fold. Our source also informed us that Google is in the early stages of developing a 5G tablet, codenamed “clementine,” with the same modem. However, it is currently unknown when and if the device will be released in the market.

Exynos 5123 modem Exynos 5300 modem Exynos 5400 modem

Paired

Exynos 5123 modem

Tensioner (first generation)

Exynos 5300 modem

Tensioner G2, Tensioner G3

Exynos 5400 modem

Tensioner G4

Supported 5G specifications

Exynos 5123 modem

3GPP Release 15

Exynos 5300 modem

3GPP Release 16

Exynos 5400 modem

3GPP Release 17

Support satellite communication

Exynos 5123 modem

no

Exynos 5300 modem

no

Exynos 5400 modem

Yes

Devices

Exynos 5123 modem

Pixel 6, 6a series

Exynos 5300 modem

Pixel 7 series, 7a series, 8 series, 8a, and Pixel Fold

Exynos 5400 modem

Pixel 9 series, next-gen Pixel Fold, future 5G tablet (“Clementine”)

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Satellite connectivity for future pixels

Satellite messaging settings for Android

As we previously reported, Google has made significant progress integrating satellite messaging support into Android 15. And thanks to NTN support in the Exynos Modem 5400, the Pixel 9 series will be the first to support Android's native satellite implementation.

Initially, this feature will be provided by T-Mobile (created in collaboration with SpaceX), with other providers likely to be added in the future. The satellite link will allow texting, but not calling. In addition, a special 'Satellite Gateway' app will allow for easy communication with emergency services via a feature called 'Emergency SOS'.

Pixel 9 Satellite Gateway app icon: Black satellite icon over a pink-red circular background

Satellite Gateway application icon.

We've already seen previous indications of how this will work, but now we can preview it in more detail. First, you will be asked some basic questions to narrow down the situation. You will also be given the option to notify your emergency contacts, and then you will be able to send messages to emergency services to get the help you need. Many questions will also have preset answers to choose from to make the process faster. We've listed some questions in the table below, to give a general idea of ​​how it works.

Questions

What happened?

[Are you/Are they/Is everyone] breathing?

In total, how many people [missing/trapped]?

What best describes your condition?

What's on fire?

Are there weapons involved?

What type of car or ship?

Do any of these apply?

The satellite calling feature will also be available on the next generation Pixel Fold, as shown by the following message in the app:

code

To connect to the satellite, unfold your phone and rotate it %d degrees counter clockwise

It's still no Qualcomm, but it's a welcome upgrade, regardless

While the modem upgrade we see here may not have been the significant upgrade we wanted, it will hopefully result in fewer issues, which is obviously a good thing. Especially since the Tensor G4 is nothing more than an updated Tensor G3. It was only created because a fully custom Google Slide missed the 2024 deadline.

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