Satellite Emergency SOS, the iPhone 14 feature that allows the phone to connect to satellites for emergency services, has finally gone live, fulfilling Apple's launch promise. The service is first available in the US and Canada, and users can try a demo of the service on their iPhone without incurring an expensive ransom.
If you want to try out a demo of the Emergency SOS service for yourself, your iPhone 14 family device can show you how it works. Go to your settings, then scroll down to the Emergency SOS menu.
At the bottom of this menu, you should see the paragraph “Emergency SOS via satellite”. You can click on the “Try Demo” link to start the demo process. For the demo, the iPhone will turn off your cellular service while it scans the sky for an available satellite.
This is what happens when you need it
Our editor Lance Ulanoff went out and tested Satellite Emergency SOS when it went live. From our offices in the New York skyscrapers we couldn't get a clear view of the satellite, which is good because we don't need it. The Emergency SOS feature is only better when you don't have cellular service available. Apple says that if you can make a voice call or connect to a data network, you should do that instead.
The Emergency SOS service is very slow, taking up to a minute or more to send a text into space. It is based on pre-written scripts that help you quickly report your emergency without having to send a lot of data.
The Emergency SOS demo is available in Settings (Image credit: Future)
The first question will ask what type of emergency you have and give you a choice between vehicle trouble, illness or injury, fire, or being lost or trapped. If you choose a vehicle issue, for example, it will ask more questions about the number of people involved, the current environment, and anything else that helps rescuers prepare to save you.
While you manage the communication, the iPhone will follow the satellite and tell you where to look. It will tell you to turn left or right if you need a better signal or to find a new satellite.
Your emergency broadcast will be sent through Apple's own service, and Apple can talk to emergency providers whether or not they can receive text messages and digital information provided by the iPhone. Apple acts as an intermediary, not just establishing a direct connection between your phone and emergency services.
This satellite is very, very far away.
If you thought your iPhone was already talking to a satellite every time you make a call, you're only a few miles away. Your average cell tower is a few miles away at most. The theoretical maximum for cell reception is around 45 miles, but in reality carriers put up towers to ensure you have access within a few miles of where you are.
The satellite used by the iPhone for Emergency SOS is 850 miles above the earth. It's a small target in space, so iPhone helps you aim at the right location in the sky and track the satellite's path during the shoot.
The emergency satellite works with all iPhone 14 phones (Image credit: Future/Lance Ulanoff)
It should be noted that Apple claims that all data sent during an Emergency SOS session is fully encrypted at both ends. Even if you use Emergency SOS to update Find My on your devices with your current location, your location data remains private.
For at least the first two years, Apple says the service will be free for owners of an eligible device, including the iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Plus, and iPhone 14 Pro Max. The service is already available in the US and Canada and will be coming to the UK, Ireland, Germany and France later this year.