SOS Emergency via Satellite, the iPhone function arrives to connect when there is no signal

Presented last September, Apple’s useful service also arrives in Italy which provides – on the iPhone 14 – to ask for help if you find yourself in an emergency in remote places and not covered by any signal, neither cellular nor Wi-Fi. We tried it, here are all the features and how it works.

How it is activated and what it is for

Using an iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro or 14 Pro Max, this feature allows you to get in touch with the emergency services when you are in an area where cellular signal coverage is completely absent, such as in high mountains or in very remote or uninhabited areas. The availability of the new feature – active from today and also in Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal after it was already available in the US, UK, France, Canada, Germany and Ireland – is signaled on the smartphone screen with the appearance of a satellite symbol at the top right where the cellular signal usually appears and is automatically activated if we are in an area not covered by mobile operators if we call an emergency service, such as 112 for example. Through a brief questionnaire the telephone is able to draw up a first checkup of the situation and of our health conditions by asking us a few questions; after which it will transmit this information in the form of a message – together with our exact position, including the altitude and the remaining battery life – to a clearing house, a sort of service center which acts as a link between our device and the national services switchboards of emergency. Similarly, after this initial contact, it will then be possible to continue communicating, in Italian or in the language in which the iPhone is set, with the emergency services and one’s position will be updated every 15 minutes. Furthermore, you can choose whether to send the same message to your emergency contact (who, however, will not be able to communicate with us, but will only be able to read any updates). The feature will also turn on automatically if iPhone or Apple Watch detects a car crash or a hard fall and the person is unresponsive.

The experience of using the satellite connection

The usage procedure is very simple. If cellular service isn’t available, iPhone signals that you can send a message to emergency services using satellite. After which questions will appear on the screen which will allow us to outline the type of emergency: if we have a problem with the car, if we are ill or injured, if we are the victim of a crime, if there are people lost or trapped, if we are in the presence of a fire. Going forward in the menu it will be possible to specify if there are breathing problems, if there are other people involved, any medical problems. At this point the actual search for the satellite will start, which can take a few seconds up to even a minute, based on where we are: just point the phone towards the sky by following the arrows on the screen. In situations where the sky is completely clear, you will receive an answer within seconds. The system, communicating through satellites, does not work indoors and could have communication difficulties in the presence of hills, mountains, valleys, canyons or very tall structures. After receiving our first contact, the operator may possibly ask us further questions, for example asking us to better describe the position we are in or if we need any medicines.

Prepare to use satellite Emergency SOS and the Find My feature

To better understand how the service works, a demo is also available (accessible via the app Settings > Emergency SOS > Try the demo) which allows you to learn how to use this feature. Apple explains that it is also important to configure your medical record first (in which you can enter any pathologies or medicines in addition to the blood group) and select the emergency contacts to be notified in case of need. For the moment, the system is free with the purchase of an iPhone 14 for the first two years of use. After that, based on an initial running-in and testing phase, Apple will decide whether to continue making it free or whether to include this feature in a subscription plan. The feature was awarded the “Technology of the Year” award by the American magazine Via Satellite and the Global Mobile Award in the “Disruptive Device Technology” category. The possibility of using this function together with the Dov’è app to communicate your position when you are in a remote place is also very useful: if, for example, you want to reassure a relative during a long trek: you will need to set the Dov If iPhone is a location-sharing device, select who can access this feature and then send your location via satellite when you’re out of cellular coverage (you can do this every 15 minutes).