When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2008, it was clear that Apple’s main goal was to bring innovative technology to the user’s palm. It’s been over a decade and Apple continues to do this every year. At an event in September 2022, Apple added an impressive feature called Emergency SOS via satellite to the all-new iPhone 14 lineup.
We all love the adrenaline rush of adventure in the wild or at sea. But there is also a small part of us that fears a situation where we might need help. That’s why the function of emergency SOS via satellite was introduced in iPhone 14. It allows you to connect to emergency services without a cellular connection. Intrigued? Read on to learn more.
What is Emergency SOS via satellite on the iPhone 14 series
There are many obscure regions where cell towers are not available. Communication in these areas can be achieved using communication satellites located hundreds of miles above the Earth. However, limited bandwidth is a major problem, making even texting difficult. To overcome this, satellite phones have advanced technology that results in their large and bulky form factor.
But Apple, being Apple, found a solution. They have developed a special software called Emergency SOS via Satellite for the iPhone 14. This latest security feature can help you connect to emergency services when there are no other ways to contact them.
If you’re out of cellular or Wi-Fi coverage and can’t connect to cellular SOS, your iPhone will try to connect you to the help you need via satellite. Sending a message can take anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute in ideal conditions with a direct view of the sky. Let’s go into more detail in the next section.
How satellite communication works on iPhone
With Emergency SOS via Satellite software, the iPhone 14’s antennas can connect to the frequencies of communications satellites when pointed directly at them. Since satellites are not visible to the human eye, this service tells you where to point your phone to establish a connection and stay connected when the satellite is moving.
After connecting, the satellite will receive a message. Transmitting this to the ground station and emergency services is fairly easy, given their relatively better communications.
More than that? Because the bandwidth of satellites does not match standard messaging protocols, Apple created a custom short text compression algorithm to reduce the size of messages to one-third of their actual size. Thanks to this algorithm, sending a message can take less than 15 seconds if there are no other obstacles. Let’s see how you can use it.
How to send an emergency SOS via satellite on iPhone 14
Before we go any further, you should know that you cannot make satellite calls; you can only send short text messages.
First, you need to point the device at a clear sky and try to connect to the satellite. Once connected, your iPhone will ask questions to assess your situation. It will then send that information to emergency responders once you’re connected.
Apple says they’ve worked with emergency response experts to find out the questions people most often ask when they need a rescue. This service provides the most common answers for the user. In this way, it is possible to quickly summarize the whole situation with as little information as possible.
Once the emergency services have received the information, they will be able to contact you as soon as possible. What’s more, if you connect to them, you can start a text conversation with emergency responders by sharing your medical ID and emergency contact information, as well as answers to an emergency questionnaire.
You can also share your location and battery percentage. The development of technology that sends this amount of information via satellites in a device like the iPhone 14 is commendable. But there is more.
Find my integration
This service can also be used in less severe circumstances. For example, you can also send GPS-based location data using these satellites. So if you’re going on a long hike, you can use the Find My app to manually share your location via satellite.
Now that we understand exactly what it is and how it works, let’s look at the availability of this feature.
iPhones and regions are supported for emergency SOS via satellite
While this feature is great, its availability depends on a few conditions. Here is the official information that Apple has given us.
- iPhone 14 or later with the latest iOS 16 update.
- Exception: If you purchased iPhone 14 in China, Hong Kong or Macau, you will not have access to this feature.
- USA and Canada (including Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands).
- International travelers visiting the US and Canada can use emergency SOS via satellite, unless they purchased the phone in mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau.
- Exceptions: Emergency SOS via satellite is not available in:
- Guam or American Samoa.
- Places above 62° latitude like the northern parts of Alaska.
Launch date and price
Unfortunately, you cannot use the emergency SOS function via satellite right away. It will be available in November 2022 with the iOS 16 software update. Moreover, it is a premium service. But the good news is that iPhone 14 users can access it for free for the first two years.
Frequently asked questions about satellite communications
Yes, Apple says they are end-to-end encryption.
Globalstar will provide satellite services for this feature.
Yes, there are many of them. You can check out Iridium and its range of satellite phones.
Emergency SOS via satellites: Has Apple joined the space technology race?
Now that we’ve figured out the emergency SOS via satellite connection on the iPhone 14, we’re also excited to see what the next few years have in store for us in a similar way. Will Apple develop more such technologies and offer competition to Starlink? Or is this just a one-off iPhone security feature? We will learn more in time!