How to use Emergency SOS via satellite on iPhone

We’re teaching you how to send Emergency SOS texts via satellite connectivity on your iPhone when you’re in an area with no cell towers around.

Emergency SOS via satellite is a feature Apple hopes you’ll never need. Unveiled at the iPhone 14 event on September 7, Emergency SOS via satellite allows your iPhone’s antennas to connect directly to a satellite and reach an emergency services provider instead of using your carrier’s cellular network.

Composition showing connection tips in Emergency SOS via satellite on iPhone, with a shot of planet Earth in the background
Composition: Christian Zibreg / iDB | Earth image: Apple

What is Emergency SOS via satellite? How does it work?

Things you can do over satellite when there’s no cellular or Wi-Fi connection:

  • Invoke the Emergency SOS feature
  • Manually share your location with Find My

So, if you happen to go hiking in an area without cellular coverage and you find yourself stranded or injured, you will be able to reach out to your local emergency service and seek help. Read: 10 iPhone settings to boost your experience

Here’s Apple’s description of the feature:

Satellites are moving targets with low bandwidth, and it can take minutes for messages to get through. Since every second counts, with Emergency SOS via satellite, iPhone front-loads a few vital questions to assess the user’s situation and shows them where to point their phone to connect to a satellite. The initial questionnaire and follow-up messages are then relayed to centers staffed by Apple‑trained specialists who can call for help on the user’s behalf.

Follow along with us to learn how to use Emergency SOS via satellite.

How to use Emergency SOS via satellite on iPhone

Hold the power button and a volume button simultaneously to make an emergency call and your iPhone 14 will offer to send an SMS message if there’s no cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Read: How to set up and use Emergency SOS on Apple Watch

  1. Press and hold the power button and one of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears.
  2. Drag the Emergency SOS slider to call local emergency services for your area.
  3. The regular call should fail and you should see a “No Connection” message at the top. Now  touch the button labeled “Emergency Text via Satellite.” Alternatively, you can text 911 or SOS in the Messages app, then choose “Emergency Services.”
  4. Now touch the “Report Emergency” option.
  5. Answer a few questions to describe your situation as accurately as possible.
  6. Follow onscreen tips to connect your iPhone to a satellite.
  7. After you’re connected, continue following these prompts to maintain connection so the message could go through.

Emergency SOS will share a few crucial data points with emergency responders, including your Medical ID, emergency contacts, emergency questionnaire answers, location (including elevation) and remaining battery life for your iPhone.

System requirements for Emergency SOS via satellite

Composition showing a message in Apple's Find My app about a contact's location being updated via satellite, with a shot of planet Earth in the background
Composition: Christian Zibreg / iDownloadBlog | Earth image: Apple

Using the Emergency SOS feature via satellite connectivity is supported on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models with the iOS 16.1 software and later.

Devices with support for Emergency SOS via satellite

  • iPhone 14
  • iPhone 14 Plus
  • iPhone 14 Pro
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max

iOS 16.1 is scheduled to release publicly sometime in November.

This feature is supported for customers in Canada and the United States, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. It’s unavailable in Guam and American Samoa.

While Emergency SOS via satellite is supported on all iPhone 14 models, the feature isn’t offered on iPhones sold in mainland China mainland, Hong Kong or Macao.

Apple notes that Emergency SOS via satellite might not work in geographical locations above 62° latitude like northern parts of Canada and Alaska.

Tips for connecting to a satellite

Composition showing tips to stay connected with Emergency SOS via satellite on iPhone, and a shot of planet Earth in the background
Composition: Christian Zibreg / iDB | Earth image: Apple

To connect to a satellite, you must be outside and have a clear view of the sky without buildings, trees and other objects blocking it. Trees with light foliage might slow down the connection, and dense foliage might block it.

  • Grip your iPhone like you normally would. Hold your iPhone like you normally would, there’s no need to hold the device up to connect to a satellite.
  • Take your iPhone outside your pocket. If your iPhone is in your pocket, purse or bag, take it out before trying to connect to a satellite to improve reception.
  • Establish a clear line of sight: Having a clear view of the sky and the horizon is crucial to connecting with a low-earth orbiting satellite.
  • Avoid large objects: Any large objects such as skyscrapers and mountains and tall structures like canyons and hills might block or degrade your connection.

Apple’s support document clarifies that once your iPhone successfully establishes a satellite connection, it will be maintained even if the device is locked.

Emergency SOS via satellite and your privacy

Your messages are sent encrypted to Apple to prevent eavesdropping.

After decrypting the message, Apple then sends it to the relevant authority, like the local emergency services dispatcher or the emergency relay center, which may retain the message to improve their services.

“In order to route your text messages to a local emergency services organization, and to assist responders in reaching you, your location will be shared with Apple and its partners when you use Emergency SOS via satellite,” Apple explains.

Why are satellite connections so slow?

Composition showing an iPhone 14 with Emergency SOS via satellite in the foreground, with a space shot of Earth along with an orbiting satellite in the background
Composition: Christian Zibreg / iDB | Earth image: Apple

Satellite connectivity is slow so be prepared to wait anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes to send a single text, as Apple explains:

When you use a satellite connection, the experience is different than sending or receiving a message via cellular. In ideal conditions with a direct view of the sky and the horizon, a message might take fifteen seconds to send and over a minute to send under trees with light or medium foliage. If you’re under heavy foliage or surrounded by other obstructions, you might not be able to connect to a satellite.

On top of that, connection times are dependent on the surroundings, the length of your message and the status and availability of the satellite network.

Can travelers use Emergency SOS via satellite?

Yes, globetrotters visiting the United States or Canada can use Emergency SOS via satellite unless their phone was bought in mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao.

How much does Emergency SOS via satellite cost?

When it arrives in November, Emergency SOS via satellite will be free for two years. After that, you’ll need start paying to continue using Emergency SOS via satellite. Apple didn’t say how much a paid service will cost, but we’ll update this article as soon as it does. Read: What to do after showering or swimming with Apple Watch