One of the more notable announcements from Apple’s iPhone 14 launch event in September was emergency SOS via satellite. This iPhone 14 feature extends on Apple’s existing Emergency SOS feature by allowing users to contact emergency services via satellite rather than cell towers.
We now know when this feature will be available. Apple announced today (November 10) that Emergency SOS via satellite will be available later this month for consumers in the United States and Canada. The feature is only available on iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models; previous iPhones lack the requisite hardware.
Apple recently announced a $450 million investment (opens in new tab) in infrastructure to support Emergency SOS via satellite. This money has mostly gone to Globalstar, which will be in charge of maintaining the service in terms of both physical infrastructure (including satellites) and support staff.
Emergency SOS via satellite: How it works
The original Emergency SOS feature has been available for some time, allowing users to send an emergency alert by pressing a series of buttons on their phone to initiate a call to emergency services. On newer iPhones, hold the wake-up button on the right side of the device and then push the volume down or volume up button on the left until a screen shows. Then you’ll be given the option of swiping an “Emergency SOS” slider. When you fully slide that slider, your iPhone will contact local emergency services.
The Emergency SOS by Satellite feature on the iPhone 14 eliminates the requirement for a cellular connection to send an emergency message. Instead, your iPhone will instruct you to establish a line of sight with an overhead satellite (such as one operated by Globalstar). Once connected, you can send an emergency text message to emergency services as well as your emergency contacts.
The Emergency SOS via satellite capability can truly provide emergency services with a surprising amount of information. It offers customers a simple quiz that can convey information to emergency services such as who is injured, your location, and how much battery life is left on your iPhone.
However, the feature is not without limitations. Satellite connections can be fickle, and while Apple claims that the feature can work in as little as 15 seconds, heavy foliage and obstructions can render it completely inoperable.
Nonetheless, Emergency SOS via satellite is a nice addition to the iPhone, especially because it is free for the first two years. The feature should give anyone who goes off the grid on hikes or other outdoor activities some peace of mind by providing a mechanism to get help if they get into difficulty.
There is a Satellite Connection Demo if you have yet to try Emergency SOS through satellite. Users can use this demo mode anytime, not just in areas where cell coverage is unavailable. Apple wants its customers to use the demo feature so they can practise using Emergency SOS via satellite without actually being in an emergency or accidentally contacting emergency services.