iPhone 14 emergency SOS via satellite - what is it and how does it work

iPhone 14 emergency SOS via satellite - what is it and how does it work
You're out in the middle of nowhere, far away from the comfort of your home, and suddenly find yourself in a life-threatening situation with no cellular signal. What would you do? Well, if you have an iPhone 14 in your pocket, you can just use Apple's Emergency SOS via satellite feature to contact emergency services. 

That's right, with this amazing new function, you can connect to a satellite and call for help, no matter if you're stranded on a deserted island or lost in the mountains. But how exactly can you use Apple's Emergency SOS feature? Well, let's find out.

What is Emergency SOS via satellite in the iPhone 14?

As the name suggests, the Emergency SOS via satellite feature lets you connect to a satellite and send an SOS message to an emergency service provider or an Apple relay center when you don’t have any reception.

When was the Emergency SOS via satellite feature launched?

On November 15th, 2022 Apple launched the Emergency SOS via satellite feature.

Where is the Emergency SOS via satellite feature currently available?

At launch, the Emergency SOS via satellite feature was only available in the US and Canada, but as of December 14th, 2022, it's also available in France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK. Also, sometime in March 2023, Apple will make the feature available to Austria, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Portugal.

What models support Apple's Emergency SOS via satellite feature

Only the latest iPhone 14 models support Apple's Emergency SOS via satellite feature. This is because the newest iPhones are equipped with custom antenna components that allow them to communicate directly with satellites. Since previous iPhones don't have this antenna upgrade, they can't connect to a satellite directly.

How does Emergency SOS via satellite work?

When you choose to send a message via satellite, you will see that you can report five types of emergencies:
  • A car or vehicle issue
  • Sickness or Injury
  • Crime
  • Lost or Trapped
  • Fire

After you have chosen the kind of emergency you are in, your iPhone will ask you a few additional questions, which are designed to give emergency services more information about your situation. For example, if you choose "Sickness or injury," your phone will ask you if anyone is injured, to which you can respond with "Yes" or "No" via the appropriate buttons.

Your iPhone will then walk you through the process of connecting to a satellite. It will display messages like "Turn right" or "Turn left" until it establishes a successful connection.

Keep in mind that for a stable and successful connection, you will need a clear view of the sky and the horizon, so you may need to move a little until you find such a spot. Also, you can't connect to a satellite if you are indoors, and Apple warns that tall buildings, mountains, dense vegetation, or other objects may also block the connection.

When you find the perfect spot, a graphical prompt and animation will guide you to point your iPhone 14 to a satellite. And when it establishes a stable connection, your phone will contact the emergency services provider or an Apple emergency relay center located in the US or Canada, which will then contact an emergency services provider on your behalf. There is even an option to notify or not notify your emergency contacts about your condition.

Your situation, location, phone's battery level, and Medical ID information — if enabled, of course — like medications, height, and weight will be automatically shared with the emergency services. Additionally, emergency services will be informed if you change your location during your conversation with them.

Wait, what conversation? Yes, you will be able to send and receive messages - appearing in gray chat boxes - from and to emergency services while connected to the satellite. This way, through follow-up questions, you can give more information about your situation. Furthermore, if you have notified your emergency contacts, they will also receive a transcript of your conversation.

Since messages sent via satellite can take longer to travel than regular communication over cellular, Apple uses a short text compression algorithm to send your messages more quickly. However, it’s still advisable to keep your messages as short as possible.

Another thing you should know is that there may be gaps in satellite coverage. But don’t panic when you lose signal, your iPhone will immediately tell you when the next satellite will be available.

How to turn on Emergency SOS via satellite on iPhone 14

When you try to call the emergency services provider without having any reception, your iPhone 14 will offer you to use the Emergency Text via Satellite instead. On the right side of the “End Call” button, you will see a new green message button with an "SOS" on it, which, when pressed, will activate the feature and require you to report your emergency.

Also, if you dial emergency services but can’t connect with them, the feature will automatically activate after approximately 60 seconds.

How to share your location with friends and family

Find My now also supports the new satellite connection. You can check in from time to time and update your latest location, so your friends and family can know where you are.

How to Share Your Location Via Satellite Using Find My:

  • Go to the Find My app
  • In the People tab, tap Start Sharing Location
  • Choose the contacts to share to
  • If the iPhone has no cellular connectivity, you will be guided to connect to a satellite
  • Receivers will see a prompt that your location has been shared by satellite (so they know it probably won’t update often)

How much will Emergency SOS via satellite cost?

iPhone 14's Emergency SOS via satellite feature is free for two years starting from the date of the device's activation. Currently, there is no information on how much the new emergency service will cost when these two years expire.

Final Words

Apple's Emergency SOS via satellite feature really sounds like it could save your life in an emergency, but we sincerely hope you will never need to use it.
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