For the first time ever, Apple introduced Emergency SOS via satellite functionality, and it is arriving for all iPhone 14 models. Depending on the situation you are in, where no cellular reception or Wi-Fi connection exists, you can use the feature to send texts to emergency services and get yourself out of a ‘less than ideal’ predicament. Here is everything you need to know about the feature.
When Does Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite Feature Start to Work? What Problems Will You Face While Using It?
Emergency SOS will be available whenever you do not have any Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity. It is imperative to know that, for the time being, you can only send emergency messages and not make calls. Maybe Apple will implement call functionality, but this is what you get for now. The feature will not work indoors, so when using any iPhone 14 model, you will have to be outside, under the open sky, with plenty of space around you for the handset to start communicating with satellites.
Suppose there are even little forms of obstruction, such as trees, buildings, and mountains, irrespective if they are away from you, performance might be impacted. You may also have to turn left or right, depending on the instructions present on the iPhone, while pointing upwards at the sky to maintain a healthy connection with the satellite. This can take a few minutes, depending on your surroundings.
After you are connected, you will see a prompt on your iPhone 14, and shortly after, you can send text messages. There are two sources who will receive your emergency texts; either emergency services who are operating in your area, who will receive the text directly, or that message will go through a relay service, which will then be able to make an emergency call for you.
As for how long it takes for emergency messages to be sent, it can take a few seconds to a few minutes. Everything depends on how strong the iPhone 14’s connection is with the satellite. Apple earlier stated that it uses a compression algorithm that reduces the emergency text’s bandwidth size by three times to speed up communication. However, that advantage can quickly dwindle if the satellite connection continues to break.
After you have initiated communication with an emergency or relay service, essential data such as your current situation, location, and battery life will be shared. If your location changes over time, you can continue to communicate with those emergency services and provide them with accurate information.
Keep in mind that Emergency SOS via satellite may not work in places above 62° latitude, an example being the northern parts of Canada and Alaska.
You Can Also Share Your Location Over Apple’s Find My Network
Emergency SOS via satellite has another trick up its sleeve. Your friends and family will get to know your location as it can be shared on Apple’s Find My network without the need for a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Your closed circle of individuals will get to know your last known location (or updated one if you continue providing those details on Find My), who can then inform emergency services on your behalf if your satellite connection is giving you trouble.
Is Emergency SOS Available to Users Right Away When They Receive Their Brand New iPhone 14?
Unfortunately, no. Emergency SOS via satellite will be available initially in the U.S. and Canada, with the feature set to launch sometime in November officially. Suppose you purchased your iPhone 14 from any other region outside of the U.S. and Canada. In that case, you can start using the Emergency SOS (except for China, Hong Kong, or Macao), but only after its official launch.
Is It Free to Use?
For now, yes. Apple says that all iPhone 14 models will get free satellite connectivity for two years, after which users will likely be charged a monthly or annual sum if they wish to continue using the Emergency SOS feature. The company has not introduced any pricing plans for now, so we will have to wait for that update.
Has Apple Launched Its Own Satellites to Bring This Feature to iPhone 14 Owners?
Though Apple has rumored plans to launch its own satellites a few years from now, for the time being, the technology giant has teamed up with Globalstar to bring this Emergency SOS feature. According to an SEC filing that MacRumors spotted, Globalstar has agreed to allocate 85 percent of its current and future network capacity to support iPhone 14 models and likely future iPhones that support satellite connectivity.
The contract between the two companies details that Globalstar will undertake all responsibility for resource allocation, but as you all know, none of this comes for free. Apple is likely absorbing some costs of allowing its iPhone 14 models to communicate with satellites, and after two years, those payments will be covered by the owners.
By no means is Emergency SOS via satellite perfect, as users are bound to have their patience tested when attempting to connect to a satellite in range. We are confident that improvements will be made in the near future, and we will not be surprised to learn if competitors Samsung and Xiaomi will bring the same feature to their top-end family of smartphones in the coming years.