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How to Use iPhone Emergency SOS via Satellite

How to Use iPhone Emergency SOS via Satellite

published by Rachel Gold
November 15, 2022 at 1:49 p.m.
  • Emergency SOS via Satellite is a new feature enabling emergency satellite connectivity for all iPhone 14 models.
  • Apple’s new safety feature can launch automatically if a car crash is detected.
  • Due to limited bandwidth, users are guided through text message communications to preserve data.
  • The new feature also allows users to share their off-grid location with the Find My app using a satellite connection.
  • All iPhone 14 owners can try a demo of Emergency Satellite via SOS to verify that it works and gain familiarity with its operations.

Emergency SOS via Satellite is Available Now!

Apple finally launched its most exciting feature of 2022 — Emergency SOS via Satellite. The feature enables users to contact emergency services in remote locations where Wi-Fi and cellular coverage do not exist. With outdoorsy people exploring more of the world without experience or survival training, Emergency SOS via Satellite is a game changer.

Emergency SOS via Satellite only works on the iPhone 14 series because the feature depends on a new Qualcomm modem. The iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, and 14 Pro Max all come equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF System. This revolutionary new chip enables satellite communications and vastly improves battery life and cellular connectivity on the latest iPhone models.

Apple didn’t just leave this feature up to Qualcomm. The Cupertino tech giant put in a lot of effort to get this remarkable technology off the ground. The iPhone maker partnered with Globalstar to secure satellite operations using $450 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund. Three hundred Gloalstar employees offer dedicated support for this technology.

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If that’s not enough, Apple also trained staff in relay centers who can handle Emergency SOS via Satellite distress calls. These emergency staff members can take on calls forwarded by less familiar first responders.

For now, Emergency SOS via Satellite only works in the US and Canada. Next month, the feature will be available in France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK.

How to Try the Emergency SOS via Satellite Demo

Apple did a phenomenal job implementing Emergency SOS via Satellite. It’s a textbook example of excellent systems integration. It almost makes up for the company’s lack of innovation in 2022.

One of the most insightful aspects of the new satellite-based emergency system is the ability for anyone with a compatible phone to try it. Yes, if you own any iPhone 14 model, you can try a working demo of Emergency SOS via Satellite. Let’s give it a go!

Before we begin, since the demo involves satellite connectivity, it’s best to be outside. It works in my home, but if you’re on the first floor of a multi-level apartment building or house, it probably won’t. It’s impressive to see how well Apple and Qualcomm’s satellite connectivity works, but it functions best outdoors.

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Here are step-by-step instructions for launching the Emergency SOS via Satellite demo:

  1. Launch Settings and tap Emergency SOS. The Emergency SOS screen appears.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and tap on “Try Demo”. A screen with introductory information appears.
  3. Tap next. A screen about answering emergency questions appears.
  4. Read the information about emergency questions and tap Next. A screen with instructions for establishing a satellite connection appears.
  5. Tap Test Satellite Connection. A message appears asking you to turn off your cellular connection for the test.
  6. Tap “Turn Off”. A screen appears with a user interface to assist with satellite connectivity.
  7. Your iPhone will show you when a satellite is in range and direct you to establish a connection. Once connected, you’ll see a screen that verifies the link, instructing you to keep pointing at the satellite. The screen changes to a specialized messaging user interface, with satellite connectivity displayed at the top and a message thread at the bottom.
  8. Keep your iPhone pointed at the satellite using the graphical guide at the top of the screen. Messages will appear with instructions and asking your location.
  9. Enter your location and tap the send button. Try to be as brief as possible because this is a low bandwidth, high latency connection due to the lack of an external antenna and distance from the satellite. A message appears asking about the cause of the breakdown.
  10. Enter the cause of your breakdown. Since this is a demo, I entered “flat tire.” You’ll see a reply asking if there are gas or fluid leaks.
  11. Enter a reply. For the sake of this demo, I typed “No.” A screen with final instructions and notes appears, along with a button to end the demo or start over.

Emergency SOS via Satellite works very well, and it’s peerless. You’ll only find this feature on iPhone 14 models.

I’m amazed at how well it connects to satellites, even indoors. If you’re out in the woods, under a canopy of trees, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to connect to a satellite should an emergency occur.

Remember that this feature only works if you don’t have cellular coverage. If your iPhone can connect to a cellular network, it’s a much faster and better means of communications than a satellite can offer.

Configuration Options for Emergency SOS via Satellite

While reviewing the Emergency SOS via Satellite screen, it’s a good idea to ramp up some of the safety features on your iPhone. Let’s take a look at the Emergency SOS options on your iPhone.

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First, tap on Settings > Emergency SOS to get to the right screen. We can see that, by default, you can launch an Emergency SOS call by pressing and holding the side button and either volume button simultaneously. I also switched on “Call with 5 Presses,” which will launch an emergency call if I press the side button five times in succession. I enabled this feature because if I’m badly injured, it may not be possible to hold two buttons.

Emergency SOS works much better if you’ve filled in information in the Health app. It can automatically transmit important health and emergency contact information to dispatchers. I highly recommend tapping “Set up Emergency Contacts in Health” and following the steps to enter emergency contacts.

How to Use Find My via Satellite

Another less urgent yet related feature launches alongside Emergency SOS via Satellite. Apple added the ability to use Find My over a Satellite connection. This feature is helpful in reassuring loved ones that you’re OK and they know your whereabouts, even if you’re off the grid.

Unfortunately, you need to be off-grid to use Find My via Satellite. I tried disabling cellular and Wi-Fi networks, but iOS still knows I have connectivity. As long as your iPhone can get a few bars of cellular service, this feature will not work. Try it out the next time you’re in the boonies.

  1. Launch the Find My App. The Find My app appears.
  2. Tap on the “Me” tab at the bottom of the app. The Find My app’s “Me” screen appears.
  3. Under the “My Location via Satellite” label, it should display “Not Available”. Tap on Finish Setup. The Send Location via Satellite screen appears.
  4. On-screen instructions provide information about Find My via Satellite. You will need to share your location with at least one friend before you begin. Tap OK.
  5. Tap on the People tab. The People screen appears.
  6. Tap on Start Sharing Location. A user interface for looking up contacts appears.
  7. Look up a contact and then tap on their information in blue. Now tap “Send” to initiate location sharing. A message panel asking for location sharing duration appears.
  8. For this tutorial, let’s share our location for an hour. It’s always best to give users the minimum permissions to accomplish a task. The People screen will now show that you’re sharing your location with someone.
  9. Tap on the Me tab at the bottom of the screen. The Me screen appears.
  10. Tap on Learn More under My Location via Satellite. The Send Location via Satellite screen appears.

Emergency SOS via Satellite is a Killer Feature

People often complain about the high cost of an iPhone, but when you consider what it can accomplish, it’s a bargain. The fact that an $800 smartphone can issue a distress call over a satellite-based connection is a game changer. The iPhone is peerless in this respect.

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I admire Apple’s market-driven approach to developing this feature. Sure, Qualcomm’s chip may have provided the spark, but it took a lot of work on the ground and space to get this feature working. It just works!

Anyone dubious of this new feature should try it out. I had my doubts, but now I am thoroughly impressed. I feel much safer carrying around my iPhone 14 Pro Max. The Dynamic Island didn’t impress me. I almost felt ripped off. Now that I’ve tried Emergency SOS via Satellite, my iPhone 14 Pro Max feels much more valuable.


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