One of the new features that arrived alongside the iPhone 14 devices in September 2022 was a feature that Apple calls “Emergency SOS via satellite” – and the name tells you about everything you need to know.
Apple says it’s intended for “extraordinary circumstances when no other way to reach the emergency services is available.” When you’re in trouble and you can’t find a Wi-Fi signal or a lock on a cell tower, your iPhone 14 will contact a satellite and broadcast your plea for help that way.
Be warned though, this is not a backup internet connection for personal use. The satellite connection is slow and limited, and it’s really only suitable for transmitting key information about your situation: where you are, what condition you’re in, and what you need help with.
To use the Emergency SOS via satellite feature, you need an iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro or an iPhone 14 Pro Max. Apple hasn’t discussed long-term pricing yet, but it has made the service free for two years when you buy a compatible device.
How Emergency SOS works via satellite
Emergency SOS via satellite only becomes available when you’re in an area without any Wi-Fi or cellular coverage—otherwise, you’re expected to be able to get in touch with emergency services or your trusted contacts in the normal way. Ideally, you need a clear view of the sky and the horizon, as obstructions such as leaves and mountains can slow down or even block your satellite connection.
Even in perfect conditions with the best satellite lock, messages can take 15 seconds to send. It might look primitive, but there’s a lot of impressive technology here – not least the way Apple built satellite connectivity into something as sleek as the iPhone 14. (Look at the size of a regular satellite phone to see what we mean.)
As you would want in a stressful emergency situation, your phone will guide you through everything you need to do, and that includes moving the iPhone to stay locked to a satellite. (This can be done even when the phone itself is locked.) The feature works in combination with the other security options on the iPhone, so you can, for example, send information to emergency responders from the Medical ID section of the Health app.