Apple Has Introduced a “Groundbreaking” Life-Saving Feature

iPhone 14 satellite

A groundbreaking Apple safety feature is now available in Australia and New Zealand, the tech giant announced on Monday, 15 May.

Emergency SOS via satellite lets users message emergency services outside of mobile and WiFi coverage, using satellite connectivity instead. Users can also share their location with family and friends via satellite if they’re travelling somewhere without coverage. The service is currently available on all iPhone 14 models. Apple revealed they would be launching the technology in September 2022.

To be able to connect to satellite, the phones use a combination of custom-designed hardware components and integrated software. Users can then connect with relay centres staffed with Apple-trained emergency specialists who are ready to contact Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) on the user’s behalf to get them the help they need.

“The Albanese government welcomes the launch of this innovative safety capability,” said the Hon Michelle Rowland MP, Minister for Communications. “Australians know full well the importance of remaining connected in regional, rural and remote areas, particularly when they need emergency services.

“The ability to contact Triple Zero with Emergency SOS via satellite when there is no mobile coverage is a strong backup to keep Australians connected in an emergency. This will go a long way in helping emergency services respond to, protect, and ultimately, keep individuals safe from harm. Australians are encouraged to familiarise themselves with this feature and whether their device supports it.”

So, how does Emergency SOS via satellite work? Well, you probably already know that iPhones can call emergency services by pressing and holding the side button and either of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears.

If emergency services can’t be reached because there’s no mobile or WiFi coverage available, Emergency SOS via satellite will appear.

First, users will be presented with a short questionnaire asking them vital questions that are answerable with a few taps. These are then transmitted to dispatchers so they can quickly understand the user’s situation and location. To determine the questions asked, Apple worked closely with experts to identify the most common reasons for calling emergency services.

Once the questionnaire’s filled out, users are then guided to where in the sky they should point their iPhone to connect and send the initial message, which includes their location, iPhone battery level and Medical ID, if enabled. A text compression algorithm is used to reduce the average size of messages by 3x, letting users send and receive messages in as little as 15 seconds in clear conditions.

For iPhone 14 users, the service will be included for free for two years starting Monday, May 15. If you’re a new iPhone 14, it’ll start at the time of activation. Apple hasn’t yet confirmed how much the service will be after the two years are up.

Emergency SOS via satellite has already been available in join Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK and the US.

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