Apple brings emergency satellite comms to iPhone 14

Apple this week unveiled the iPhone 14. The company will begin taking orders for it later this month, with delivery of some models beginning in September and continuing through October. Confirming rumors which first floated in 2021, Apple is adding emergency connectivity by satellite as a cornerstone feature of the new device. Apple calls the feature “Emergency SOS by satellite.” Globalstar has confirmed itself as the service provider behind the new feature, which will debut in November.

Apple claims “Emergency SOS by satellite” will help put users in touch with first responders to emergencies away from cellular or Wi-Fi networks. The iPhone 14 user answers a few pre-formatted questions, and is then directed to point their device at the right part of the sky to line up satellite comms. The iPhone sends short bursts of compressed information to call centers staffed by Apple-trained specialists, who the company said will then coordinate emergency ground services to help. Apple said the service will work optimally if customers have a clear view of open sky, but that it will also work (more slowly) under light foliage. 

Apple said the Emergency SOS service will be available initially to customers in the United States and Canada beginning in November, as a service bundled with the iPhone 14 for free, for the first two years. Apple didn’t specify the subscription cost of Emergency SOS past the introductory period.

Apple’s “Find My” service helps users to share their location with other members of their family, and Apple said it too will get the satellite treatment for the iPhone 14. This service will offer peace of mind to iPhone 14 users and family members when they want to go off the grid but still want folks to know where they are: hiking in the mountains where there is no service, for example, or in other remote locations far away from terrestrial cell networks. In announcing Emergency SOS, Apple grouped the new feature together with crash detection, which can use G force telemetry, barometric changes and microphone sampling to detect car crashes, and will automatically attempt to dial emergency services if an event occurs.