Apple’s emergency satellite service is now live in 6 countries — here’s how to use it

If something goes wrong while hiking in California or hiking in France, getting help is now just a click away on Apple’s latest device.

The tech giant rolled out its safety-focused emergency SOS via satellite feature in four additional countries last week, bringing this potentially life-saving technology to more adventurers who find themselves off the grid.

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The feature is now available from December 13 in France, Germany, Ireland and the UK, joining the initial two launch markets – the US and Canada – which will be available on November 15.

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ZACH GRIFF / THE POINTS GUY

Emergency SOS via satellite requires all iPhone 14 models, including the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, running iOS 16.1 or later.

Related: Why the new iPhone 14 Pro is a game changer for travelers

The service works in the six countries mentioned above regardless of where you bought your device, even if satellite connectivity hasn’t (yet) launched in your home country. The only exceptions are iPhones purchased in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Unfortunately, older Apple smartphones cannot communicate with satellites. The required communication hardware was only added to the iPhone 14 lineup, which was launched earlier this year.

While I’ll run through a step-by-step guide to using the feature below, there are two very important features that come in handy for many travelers.

ZACH GRIFF / THE POINTS GUY

Get help if you don’t have a mobile or Wi-Fi connection

Traditionally, if you didn’t have access to a cell phone signal or a Wi-Fi network, your smartphone would be completely disconnected from people at home.

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But, with the addition of satellite connectivity, all you need is a clear view of the sky and a little patience to get in touch with help. (Establishing a strong satellite connection can sometimes take several minutes.)

Whether you’re camping somewhere remote, driving through backcountry roads or hiking in a national park, your iPhone 14 will be able to communicate with first responders using satellites in the event of an emergency.

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Upload your location when you’re off the grid

Even if you don’t need emergency help, Apple’s new satellite service can help reassure loved ones at home that everything is okay.

Although you can’t make a call or send a text with Apple’s new satellite connectivity, you can upload your current location to the Find My app when you’re off the grid. This feature should be especially useful for those exploring remote locations or those trekking outdoors who want to provide location updates to friends and family members.

To help with the new feature, Apple is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Globalstar, a multinational satellite service based in Covington, Louisiana. When you activate the feature, you connect to one of the company’s 24 satellites in low Earth orbit, which travel at speeds of about 16,000 mph.

While the service is now live in six countries, Apple promises that additional countries will be added next year. The service is free for two years from the time of activation of all new iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Note that your two-year timer won’t start until the service goes live in your home country, even if you use the feature while traveling abroad to a country that’s already activated.

Apple has not yet announced how much the feature will cost after the two-year mark.

Related: What is the best credit card for Apple purchases?

How to use Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite

One of the best ways to prepare for an emergency is to run through the steps you would take in the event of a disaster.

To do that, Apple has built a demo of the new satellite connectivity feature right into the Settings app. Just scroll down to the Emergency SOS settings and click on “Try Demo” at the bottom to practice the function.

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This is also where you can select your emergency contacts who will be notified if you use this feature in a true emergency.

If something happens while you’re off the grid, try calling the emergency phone number in the country you’re traveling to. (These are 911 in the USA and Canada, 112 in France and Germany, and 999 or 112 in Ireland and the UK)

If you don’t have enough service to make the call, a button will appear at the bottom right of the screen to start a conversation with emergency services via text.

You will then be asked to report an emergency and fill out a short questionnaire that will be sent to first responders.

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You will also be asked if you want to share your emergency contacts. Critical health information, including your medical ID, your location (including altitude) and your remaining iPhone battery life will be shared when your message is sent.

Your iPhone will guide you to connect to a satellite, which may require turning left or right or moving away from thick foliage if at all possible. Note that satellite service may work if you are located above 62 degrees latitude, which includes northern parts of Canada and Alaska.

COURTESY APPEAL

Once connected, you may receive additional follow-up messages from first responders, depending on your situation.

Related: 11 travel must-haves with Apple’s new iPhone 14, AirPods Pro, Series 8 Watch

If you are not experiencing an emergency, but are instead trying to update your friends and family with your location, you can open the Find My app and click the “Me” button at the bottom right of the screen.

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Tap “Send my location” under the satellite banner, then follow the on-screen instructions.

If you connect via satellite, you can only update your location once every 15 minutes. Note that you will not be able to see your friend’s location unless you are connected to a mobile or Wi-Fi network.

For more information and details on using the service, read Apple’s detailed step-by-step guide to emergency SOS via satellite.

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