Apple launches emergency messages via satellite

Technology news

This function can save lives: With a signal via satellite, users can send an emergency call with the latest iPhones even without cellular reception.

Apple is bringing the ability to send emergency messages via satellite with its latest iPhones to Germany about a month after its launch. The feature is meant for those situations where you don’t have cellular reception or Wi-Fi Internet. As of today, satellite emergency messaging is also available in France, the United Kingdom and Ireland, according to Apple.

Emergency messages via satellite can save lives when people are in danger in areas without cellular reception. Previously, that required special phones with larger antennas. Apple, on the other hand, integrated an in-house system for communicating with satellites into conventional case sizes on the iPhone 14.

Transmission can take several minutes
However, the connection remains a technical challenge. For example, the iPhone must be pointed directly at the satellite, and transmission can take 15 seconds or several minutes. Since satellites are not visible to the naked eye, users get help aligning the devices with a graphic on the screen. Satellites move fast and have low bandwidth, Apple pointed out.

That’s why users must first answer a few questions when using the “Emergency SOS via Satellite” feature. The transmitted message includes the answers to the questions, as well as the location, including altitude, the battery status of the iPhone and information from the emergency passport, if it is activated.

Emergency can also be sent to the family
The conversation and follow-up messages are relayed via satellite to operator centers staffed by Apple-trained professionals. These can call for help on behalf of the user. The transcript can also be forwarded to emergency contacts to keep them informed.

The technology also allows users who are off the cellular network to communicate their location to friends or family even in the absence of an emergency. The quality of the connection can be tested in a demo mode. The service is initially available free of charge for two years.