Emergency SOS via satellite, the iPhone 14 A feature that lets the phone connect to satellites for emergency services has finally gone live, fulfilling Apple’s launch promise. The service is initially available in the US and Canada, and users can try a demo of the service on their iPhone without actually having to resort to a costly bailout.
If you want to try a demonstration of the Emergency SOS service yourself, your iPhone 14 family device can show you how it works. Go to your settings and then scroll down to the Emergency SOS menu.
At the bottom of this menu, you should see the “Satellite Emergency SOS” section. You can click the Try Demo link to start the demo process. For the demo, the iPhone actually turns off your cellular service while scanning the sky for an available satellite.
Here’s what happens when you need it
Our Editor-in-Chief, Lance Ulanoff, went outside and tried the emergency call SOS via satellite how it went live. From our skyscraper offices in New York City, we couldn’t see the satellite clearly, which is fine because we don’t need it. The Emergency SOS feature is really only preferable if you don’t have cellular service available. Apple says you should do this instead if you can make a voice call or connect to a data network.
The Emergency SOS service is very slow, taking up to a minute or more to send a text message into space. It relies on ready-made scripts to help you report your emergency in a hurry without having to send too much data.
The first question will ask what type of emergency you have, offering you the choice of a vehicle problem, illness or injury, fire or loss, or entrapment. For example, if you select a vehicle issue, you’ll be asked more questions about the number of people involved, the current environment, and anything to help rescuers prepare for your rescue.
As you communicate, iPhone tracks the satellite and gives you clues on where to look. It will tell you to turn left or right if it needs a better signal or to find a new satellite.
Your emergency notification will be sent through Apple’s own service, and Apple can speak to emergency providers whether they’re able to receive text messages and the digital information provided by the iPhone. Apple acts as an intermediary, it doesn’t just provide a direct connection between your phone and emergency call providers.
That satellite is very, very far away
If you thought your iPhone was already talking to a satellite with every call, you’re pretty far away. Your average cell phone tower is a few miles away at most. The theoretical maximum for cellular coverage is around 45 miles, but the truth is that carriers put up towers to ensure you have access to some within miles of wherever you are.
The satellite used by the iPhone for Emergency SOS is 850 miles above the earth. It’s a tiny target in space, so iPhone helps you aim for the right position in the sky and track the satellite’s path throughout your session.
Notably, Apple says all data sent during an emergency SOS session is fully encrypted at both ends. Even if you use Emergency SOS to update the Find My feature on your devices with your current location, the location data remains private.
Apple says the service will be free for owners of eligible devices, including the iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Plus, and iPhone 14 Pro Max, for at least the first two years. The service is now live in the US and Canada and will be coming to the UK, Ireland, Germany and France by the end of the year.
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