Apple announced its Emergency SOS via Satellite feature back in September alongside its iPhone 14 range. The feature is brilliant, and hopefully one you’ll never have to use yourself.
The idea is that if you find yourself in an emergency situation, one without reception, you can call for help with only minimal effort. Emergency SOS via Satellite does what it says on the tin: reaches out to emergency services in the region you’re in through the use of satellite.
The feature has been live in other parts of the world for a few months now. Since its launch, we’ve brought you a handful of stories where the tech was thankfully in place, such as for canyoners in California and a man lost in the Alaskan Wilderness.
Whatever your feelings are about wielding an iPhone, you can’t ignore the fact that calling for help via satellite connection is a genuinely helpful safety feature. And it’s now available in Australia.
There are a few caveats with Emergency SOS via Satellite, though. The first is you must have an iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, or 14 Pro Max. That’s because this feature isn’t just software, it’s hardware, too, and although the feature is only just going live in Australia, our version of the handsets were shipped down under ready for it.
The second caveat isn’t really a caveat, more a directive: update your emergency contacts ASAP.
While Emergency SOS via Satellite uses your individual emergency contacts (we’ll explain how in just a sec), it’s something that outside this feature is really beneficial to have set up. Paramedics, for example, will reach straight for your phone to access your emergency contacts if, god forbid, they’re responding to an emergency incident you find yourself in.
To do this, head to Settings, scroll down to Health, tap Medical ID. Hitting Edit up the top right will allow you to add any medical conditions, allergies, medications, or just general notes that could help first responders in an emergency. Here is also where you can set emergency contacts. You can have up to 10. You simply choose the person from your contacts list and select their relationship to you. In an emergency, someone can hold down the volume up and power button of your phone to see your Medical ID.
Emergency SOS via Satellite uses your Medical ID to reach out to your loved ones in an emergency, but it first contacts emergency services.
If you are experiencing car troubles, sickness, injury, if you’re lost/trapped, the victim of a crime, in a fire, or any other situation where you’d call Triple Zero, to activate Emergency SOS via Satellite, all you need to do is call OOO from your iPhone.
If there is no cell tower reception, you’ll be presented with a notification that reads, ‘No Connection. Try Emergency Text via Satellite’. There will be a button on the bottom right of the phone screen that says Emergency Text via Satellite. Tapping this will activate the service and connect you to a satellite.
It will prompt you to Report Emergency, where you’ll need to give the operator some info, such as emergency type, who is in trouble, if there’s an injury, and to describe the emergency.
It will also ask if you want your emergency contacts notified.
It’ll then search for a satellite, guiding you with a simple UI to the direction of the satellite (pointing it at the satellite is the best way to reach emergency services seamlessly).
Messages will open and you’ll be connected to the Emergency Relay Centre. They’ll ask a little bit more info, give them as much as you can, and they’ll send help. Your chat log will be sent to your emergency contacts, too, even if they use an Android.
Btw, this is a real person relaying your info to emergency services in the area.
Every 20 minutes, satellites pass by you 1,000 kms above. For context, Melbourne and Sydney are 714 kms in distance. You have access to each satellite for the majority of that 20 minutes, but the phone is continuously searching for connection, but it can take a few minutes for even short messages to get through.
Emergency SOS via Satellite will likely cover you everywhere on mainland Australia, reaching out if you’re at sea, too. But if you trek into international waters it is no longer Australian emergency services’ coverage area and the Emergency SOS via Satellite service will not work.
The service will be included for free for two years starting today or at the time of activation of a new iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max. Should there be an iPhone 15 (there will be, duh), there’s no way Apple would remove a feature like this, so we can say with confidence every new phone in the years to come will also give you Emergency SOS via Satellite upon activation.
There is a demo available with the latest iOS update, so give it a go yourself.
Stay safe out there, folks, and only call Triple Zero in an emergency.