Apple has New iPhone 14 lineup unveiledAnd while phones mainly feature the usual list of annual upgrades like camera and performance improvements, this year’s iPhone models are also packed with some exciting and valuable new personal safety features.
Perhaps the most interesting of these is Satellite Emergency SOS, a new feature that could allow iPhone owners to call for help from anywhere on the planet — even when traditional cellular networks aren’t available.
While presenting the feature during Far Out event on September 7Apple was quick to point out that cellular coverage is improving all the time. However, company executives acknowledged that it can still be difficult to find yourself in a situation where you may have little or no signal, especially in remote areas where people often need emergency help.
Apple’s new satellite connection feature is for emergency use only. Apple didn’t convert the iPhone 14 into a satellite phone, and you still can’t make calls or send texts without the traditional cellular connection.
In fact, Satellite SOS Emergency Service is a feature that we hope you will never need to use. You are unlikely to see any settings for it on your iPhone; It remains hidden in the background until you need it.
This is also an emergency backup system. just activate When you don’t have a cellular network Or Wi-Fi coverage is available at all – from any carrier. As cool and futuristic as the sound of satellite communications is, calling 911 over your cellular network is still a much more efficient way to ask for help. Furthermore, in the US and Canada, you can make a 911 call over any cellular network, whether you subscribe to that network or not; You don’t even need an active SIM or eSIM in your iPhone to do this.
Satellite connections are slower than traditional cellular calls and texts as the signal has to travel a much greater distance. Apple didn’t say which satellite network it uses, but it’s most likely the Iridium network, which is a constellation of 66 satellites orbiting 485 miles above the Earth’s surface at 17,000 miles per hour. By contrast, if you have cellular service, you are likely less than 10 miles from a cell tower.
In practice, Apple says that even in ideal conditions – with a direct view of the sky and horizon – an emergency SOS message would typically take about 15 seconds to send via satellite. Add a few medium-leaved trees to the mix, and this delay can increase to more than a minute.
This raises another important point about emergency SOS via satellite: You have to be outside to use it, with a reasonably clear view of the sky and horizon. Since Apple didn’t want to add a big, bulky antenna to the iPhone, it should point directly at a satellite with an unobstructed line of sight.
Emergency SOS via satellite may not work even if you are under heavy foliage, and it certainly won’t work indoors or underground. Apple explains that hills, mountains, valleys, and tall structures can also interfere with establishing a satellite connection.
Fortunately, Apple has taken these delays into account. In an emergency situation, you want to get help ASAP, and trying to have a back and forth conversation isn’t as effective when each message takes two minutes.
Since you obviously can’t see a satellite hundreds of miles in orbit, your iPhone will provide guidance to help point your iPhone in the right direction to pick up an emergency satellite and lock it while keeping your iPhone pointing correctly during a session emergency.
Instead of just opening a text message window once the emergency satellite link has been created, you will be asked to answer a series of multiple-choice questions so you can easily describe your situation and provide emergency responders with important information. These responses will be sent in the first message with your medical identity and emergency contact information, your location, altitude, and remaining iPhone battery life.
Once you submit this initial request for help, emergency responders may ask you for more information via standard text messages, but the important thing is that they will have everything they need to start the rescue effort.
Emergency SOS via satellite is exclusive to iPhone 14, and the good news is that it’s available All iPhone 14 . modelfrom 6.1 inch iPhone 14 to 6.7 inch iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Despite last year’s rumor It was suggested that the iPhone 13 would have had the hardware to support satellite communicationsThis does not appear to be the case. Analysts chose to add a new 5G band to the iPhone 13, and some incorrectly assumed that this would be for satellite communication. The confusion stems from the 5G frequency, known as Band 53, which is exclusively licensed to Globalstar, a satellite communications company. However, like most telecom technology companies, Globalstar does more than just satellites; It also operates private LTE and 5G terrestrial networks using this band in places like seattle port and the New York Energy Authority.
Emergency SOS via satellite is not part of New Apple Watch Models Either – not even Apple Watch Ultra. Mark Gorman shared earlier this year that Apple is bringing this feature to the Apple Watch. However, he also added that this year’s lineup may not be cut. Whether we’ll see it appear on the Apple Watch 2023 remains an open question, but given the complex technology involved, it’s possible that Apple still has some work to do to make it fit the wearable.
Finally, iPhone 14 models sold in China, Hong Kong, and Macau will not support the Emergency SOS feature via satellite. It’s not entirely clear why this happens; It could be associated with these models that lack eSIM support or by using other cellular frequencies that interfere with satellite communications. It could also just be politics – it’s no coincidence that Huawei announced its own satellite-powered SOS feature earlier this week, just a day before Apple’s iPhone 14 event. Huawei’s system is also powered by Beidou, the GPS network A state-owned communications satellite in China.
Technically speaking, emergency SOS via satellite should allow you to call for help from anywhere in the world. The problem is that actually getting this help is a bit more complicated because it depends on other factors, such as whether emergency responders in a particular country or region are equipped for it.
As a result, emergency SOS launches via satellite are carried out exclusively in the United States and Canada. This includes Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, but not Guam or American Samoa.
This indicates where the emergency SOS is actually available. It has nothing to do with where you are from, what region your iPhone is set to, or what carrier you usually use. International travelers visiting the US and Canada can use Emergency SOS via satellite, as long as their iPhone 14 supports it; As mentioned earlier, those purchased in China, Hong Kong or Macau are unfortunately excluded.
Apple also notes that Emergency SOS via satellite may not work in extreme northern locations — those above 62 degrees north. This region includes most of the three northern territories of Canada and much of Alaska.
Satellite emergency SOS supports only US English, US Spanish and Canadian French, and only Latin characters are supported in emergency text messages sent by satellite.
Note that Emergency SOS via satellite will not be available when the iPhone 14 launches on September 16th. Apple says it will need iOS 16 The software update is expected to arrive in November 2022.
Based on Apple’s previous record, we may not see it in iOS 16.1, as Apple releases that in October. Expect it to arrive in iOS 16.2.
One of the most surprising and interesting things about Apple’s satellite communications feature is perhaps the cost; Apple offers it at no extra charge – sort of.
Technically, Apple doesn’t say there’s no fee for the service. In fact, the company notes that it may eventually cost something — it’s just included for free for two years “with any iPhone 14 model activated.”
Apple hasn’t said what it will cost next. It’s possible the company hasn’t decided yet, which is fair because they have two years to find out. However, by comparison, Garmin charges a monthly subscription fee of $15 for a satellite connection on its inReach devices.
Either way, the good news is that you don’t have to worry about recurring fees for at least two years.
Apple uses its satellite connection to power another feature that can be useful even when you’re not in an emergency situation.
With the Find My app on iPhone 14, you can now share your location via satellite, so your friends and family know where you are even when you’re away from the network.
Unlike using your iPhone on a cellular or Wi-Fi network, where your location is automatically updated in the background, you will have to share your location manually when using satellite connections. It is not yet clear exactly how this will work or when it will be available; Presumably, there will be a button somewhere in the iOS 16 Find My app, but Apple hasn’t said if that feature will be available at release or if we’ll have to wait for the rest of the emergency SOS to come via satellite capabilities of the November iOS 16 update.