How to contact emergency services via satellite with iPhone 14

All iPhone 14 models can use Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite service in countries in N. America and Europe. It allows users of the latest iOS handsets to exchange messages with emergency services while outside of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage.

Getting an iPhone 14 in contact with a satellite isn’t complicated. But it’s something users should know before they need it.

Here’s how the process goes.

Never be out of touch with iPhone 14 satellite SOS

Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite service is for hikers, climbers, hunters, boaters and anyone traveling through remote areas. It has been credited with speeding the rescues of people stranded in the far reaches of Alaska and the Canadian wilderness.

It gives iPhone 14 users emergency access to help. And it has to be a real emergency — forgetting to record The Masked Singer doesn’t qualify.

The satellite connection service will not activate when you can get a cellular connection. If you have bars, you should call or text for emergency help — use 911 or your local equivalent.

Get started with Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite service

Get started with Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite service
If you can’t connect to cellular networks to call for help, step into a clearing to use Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite service
Photo: Apple

If you’re lost, stranded or injured in a location so remote there’s no other way to get help, start by going to an open area. Any of the four iPhone 14 models can communicate with a satellite, but just barely. Trees and buildings interfere with the signal.

Squeeze the iPhone so that the power and volume up buttons are pressed at the same time. This opens a screen that, among other options, includes Emergency Call. Swipe to the right.

In the United States, an attempt to call 911 with no cell service will bring up the option to use satellite SOS.

It’s not a phone call

Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite service is text, not a phone call
You’ll need to answer a series of questions about the nature of your emergency.
Photo: Apple

The iPhone 14 isn’t a true satellite phone so you can’t make an emergency voice call with a satellite in orbit. The iOS handset can only exchange messages… slowly.

The process is difficult enough that you’re not put into direct contact with emergency services. Instead, your iPhone will ask you a series of questions to determine what kind of help you need. Do you need a paramedic to be airlifted into the wilderness or simply a tow truck?

The information will go to centers staffed by Apple-trained specialists who call for help on your behalf. It’s these people that you will be exchanging text messages with, not police, hospital, park rangers, etc.

If you’re wondering, this indirect method is why Emergency SOS via satellite isn’t already available everywhere on earth. Apple needs to set up these centers and staff them for any country where the service will be available.

The service debuted in autumn 2022 in the United States and Canada, then became available in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Ireland in December. And it will come to Austria, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal before the end of March 2023.

Now find a satellite

Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite service helps users find a satellite.
You’ll be shown clear instructions on how to find a satellite.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

Once you’ve entered the details of your emergency, it’s time to send them via satellite.

Satellite phones traditionally require bulky external antennas, something iPhone 14 obviously does not have. Apple compensated by showing users where they need to point the handset in order to make a connection with the satellite in low-Earth orbit.

In my test of the system, my iPhone located a satellite in only a few seconds. On-screen prompts told me where to point the handset to make a connection, and then kept me pointed in exactly the right direction.

Only when the connection is made will your first text message go out. And you must keep the iPhone pointed at the satellite all through this process. Don’t worry, the app shows you where to point.

Test it for yourself

If you’re planning to head out to the back of beyond, I highly recommend you do a test of the service yourself. It’s not the sort of thing you want to figure out while you’re 15 miles into the desert and nursing a broken leg.

Just open the Settings app and go to Emergency SOS, scroll down to the Emergency SOS via Satellite section and tap on Try Demo.

If you need additional help, visit Apple’s support page for the service.


      Shopping cart