One of new features that arrived with the iPhone 14 phones in September 2022 was a feature that Apple calls “Emergency SOS via Satellite” – and the name tells you pretty much everything you need to know.
Apple says it’s intended for “exceptional circumstances when there is no other means of reaching emergency services.” When you’re in trouble and can’t get a Wi-Fi signal or lock onto a cell tower, your iPhone 14 will connect to a satellite and send your request for help that way.
Note, however, that this is not a backup internet connection for personal use. The satellite link is slow and limited, and really only good 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 feature via satellite, you need an iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, or iPhone 14 Pro Max. Apple hasn’t yet discussed long-term pricing, but 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 contact emergency services or your trusted contacts in the normal way. Ideally, you need a clear view of the sky and horizon, as obstacles such as foliage 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. That might seem primitive, but there’s a lot of impressive technology here—not least the way Apple has fitted 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, 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 handset itself is locked.) The feature works in conjunction with other iPhone safety options, so you can send information to emergency responders, for example, from the Medical ID section of the Health app.