Some of the most significant upgrades in the iPhone 14 are discrete tools and services that, ideally, you will never need. Satellite Emergency SOSwhich Apple announced in September but just launched on Tuesday, is one such feature – and I had a chance to try it out.
Beyond the clouds and sky, hundreds of miles above the Earth, flying at 16,000 miles per hour, are communications satellites. They’re too high for the human eye to see, but can be vital for getting help when you (or someone you love) are stranded, injured, and out of range of cell service. The iPhone 14 can connect to these satellites to contact an emergency dispatcher even when you can’t make a phone call. You can also share your location with your loved ones via satellite without sending a message.
As car accident detection, Satellite Emergency SOS is something you hope you never have to use. But if you’re wondering how it works, I had the chance to test it out at Apple Park. If you want to try the service for yourself, Apple has added a built-in demo mode that lets you connect to a satellite without calling 911.
How to Use Emergency SOS via Satellite on iPhone 14
The first thing you need to know about Satellite Emergency SOS is that you don’t need to know anything. The service is designed to work on its own, and the interface will walk you through the process step by step.
The second thing you need to know is that using Emergency SOS is the same as calling 911. In fact, that’s actually how you use it. Dial 911, and if your phone can’t connect, an option to text emergency services via satellite appears. To start, press the Satellite Emergency Text button. (You can also go to Messages to text 911 or SOS, then tap Emergency services.)
When I tried the feature, there was a satellite icon in the top right corner of the phone where my cell signal would normally be.
Then press Report an emergency. Since a two-way conversation isn’t possible over a satellite connection like a regular phone, Apple worked with emergency dispatchers to create a form that collates the critical information they need to respond. These details are compressed into a message that is one-third the size of normal text so that it can be sent to a satellite in low Earth orbit.
With the help of taps, you answer emergency questions according to your situation. The types of emergencies you can choose from are:
- Car or vehicle problem
- Illness or injury
- Lost or trapped
Depending on your emergency situation, you will receive different prompts and follow-up questions. You can also notify your emergency contacts.
Then the on-screen instructions will help you connect to a satellite. The interface is simple and guides you to find a satellite and stay connected. As the satellite moved, I was prompted to move left or right to maintain the connection. And despite a cloudy, rainy day, connectivity worked within 20-30 seconds. But it may take a minute or more to connect, especially if there is light foliage.
Once you’re connected, your iPhone starts a text message conversation with emergency responders and shares answers to the emergency questionnaire, your location (including altitude), critical information such as your ID card medical and your emergency contact details (if you have them set up) and the rest. your iPhone’s battery life.
You may be asked questions through additional messages, such as where you are or if you have any medications.
At the top of the screen, a window indicates your connection to the satellite and the status of your messages. Emergency dispatchers receive your messages and respond by SMS. If your local emergency services don’t support SMS, Apple has set up relay centers with carriers that act as the middleman between you and the emergency dispatch.
Which iPhone models support Satellite Emergency SOS?
The service will be available now on:
- iPhone 14
- iPhone 14 Plus
- iPhone 14 Pro
- iPhone 14 Pro Max
Can I try Satellite Emergency SOS?
Yes, kind of. Apple has created a demo mode that lets your iPhone connect to a satellite without calling or contacting 911. The experience is almost identical to what I did, except you don’t contact emergency services.
To start the demo, exit and open Settings. Then press Emergency SOS and scroll down to try the demo.
The SOS emergency demo via satellite disables your cellular connection and gives you a preview of the emergency questionnaire. But again, it’s not about contacting the emergency services.
Then the demo guides you in searching for a satellite. It’s a good way to familiarize yourself with the feature if you ever need it. (Plus, connecting your iPhone to a satellite is just plain cool.)
How do I share my location using a satellite?
Another way to use satellite connectivity on your iPhone is to share your location so friends and family know where you are without texting them.
In the Find My app, tap the Me tongue. When you expand the tab, you will see a new section titled My position by satellite. Faucet Send my location. You will be prompted to find and connect to a satellite. During the time I spent trying Emergency SOS via satellite at Apple Park, this particular step took a few minutes to send my location.
Where can I use Satellite Emergency SOS?
Currently, it’s available in the United States (including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands) and Canada. The service will be extended to France, Germany, Ireland and the UK next month. But you don’t need to live in those places to use this feature. The Emergency SOS service is also available for people visiting the United States and Canada, unless they purchased their iPhone 14 in China, Hong Kong, or Macau.
Can I use Emergency SOS via Satellite indoors?
No. You must be outdoors and have a direct line of sight between your iPhone and the satellite. Service does not work indoors, and tall buildings, mountains, dense foliage, and other objects may block satellite connectivity. The Emergency SOS interface guides you to find and connect to a satellite.
How much does Satellite Emergency SOS cost?
The service is free for two years. Beyond that, Apple hasn’t shared how much it will cost or if there will actually be a charge to access the feature.
Does the iPhone 14 have satellite connectivity?
Yes. All iPhone 14 models support Satellite Emergency SOS.
Which satellites are used for Satellite Emergency SOS?
Apple has partnered with satellite telecommunications company Globalstar, which is headquartered in Covington, Louisiana, with facilities across the United States. The feature uses Globalstar’s low orbit satellite network.
Apple made a $450 million investment to make essential improvements to Globalstar’s satellite network and ground stations. At Globalstar, more than 300 employees support the new service.
Can an iPhone be used as a satellite phone?
Yes and no. The iPhone 14 series can connect to satellites to send an SMS to emergency services when a call cannot be made. You can also share your satellite location in the Find My app. However, you cannot use any iPhone to make calls like a dedicated satellite phone.
Can the iPhone 13 be used as a satellite phone?
No, only the iPhone 14 series supports satellite connectivity in case of emergency.
Which iPhone is a satellite phone?
Neither is technically a satellite phone, but the iPhone 14 series supports contacting emergency services via satellites via SMS as a last resort.
For more information, here is your complete guide to iPhone 14 and all about iOS 16.
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