IPhone Users Need To Know About This Emergency Feature

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A man hiking in the wilderness with a tent stranded in the mountains uses his phone for an emergency SOS call
Alex Brylov / Shutterstock.com

If you have an iPhone 14 or 15, a recently added feature could be a literal lifesaver.

The basic functionality of Emergency SOS — an easy way to contact 911 and automatically notify your personal emergency contacts — has been around since before the iPhone 8. But for a long time, it relied on having cellular or Wi-Fi coverage. In some remote areas without any phone service, nobody would get your call for help.

Enter Emergency SOS via satellite, which was introduced in late 2022 for recent iPhone models and allows you to call or text local emergency services. While described as a “free trial,” Apple has not named any future price for the feature and recently promised existing iPhone 14 users another free year of use.

It is now available for two years after the activation of iPhone 14 and 15 devices, including Pro versions, in the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Using the satellite connection will require your phone to be updated to iOS 16.1 or later, depending on the country. (You’ll need to update in advance of an emergency while normal phone service is available.)

Apple notes satellite connection requires “a clear view of the sky and horizon,” so it won’t help if you’re trapped underground, and messages may send more slowly if the view is obstructed by trees, mountains or buildings. It also may not work at extreme latitudes, “such as northern parts of Alaska.”

You can learn how to use the feature with a built-in demo that does not actually contact 911; Apple has instructions here.

Google is working on a similar feature for Android devices, according to a report from The Verge.

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