As previously promised, Apple’s satellite-based SOS emergency service launched in the United States and Canada on Tuesday. The service allows owners of Apple’s latest iPhones to contact emergency services or share their location and status with emergency contacts via satellite when they are in a location where standard cellular services are not available. available.
Satellite Emergency SOS works on all of Apple’s latest flagship iPhone models: iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max. Support was added in a recent iOS update, so no additional downloads are required.
When you launch the Satellite Emergency SOS, you are presented with a multiple-choice quiz that attempts to glean essential information about your situation.
Once you have completed it, you will follow a guided process to orient the phone to send the message to the satellite. Information included in the message includes your answers to the quiz, your location (including altitude), your iPhone’s current battery charge, and your Medical ID if you’ve enabled it. You can also share a transcript with your emergency contacts.
The feature does not support voice calls, as voice calls are not practical with the satellites in use or in all situations. According to Apple blog post on the subject:
Apple has designed and built custom components and software that allow the iPhone 14 to connect to the unique frequencies of a satellite without a bulky antenna. A text compression algorithm has also been developed to reduce the average message size by 300%, making the experience as fast as possible. With Satellite Emergency SOS, users can send and receive messages in as little as 15 seconds in clear conditions.
Satellite Emergency SOS “uses spectrum in the L and S bands specially designated for mobile satellite services by the ITU Radio Regulations”, according to Apple. It is sent to one of 24 satellites operated by an American company called Globalstar, which also operates numerous ground stations.
The message will be forwarded either to a nearby emergency call center called a Public Safety Response Point (PSAP) or, if the best response location is not equipped to handle text messages, to “specialists trained by Apple” who will relay the message.
You can also test satellite connectivity without contacting emergency services as a preparatory measure. The satellite network can also be used to share your location with a contact through the Find My app.
Satellite Emergency SOS is free for two years after you activate your new iPhone, but it will cost money after that. Apple released a detailed accompanying document on how to use the feature.
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