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Apple's Satellite Emergency SOS Feature May Expand to Other Regions Sooner Than We Thought

A report indicates we'll see expansion outside the U.S. and Canada later this year.

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A photo of the Emergency SOS satellite feature on an iPhone 14
The Emergency SOS feature via satellite should be on the wish list for your next smartphone.
Image: Apple

The Apple Watch and iPhone 14/14 Pro’s new Emergency SOS feature, which allows you to call for emergency help via satellite, is one of the more compelling additions to the company’s latest devices. It offers a way for users to get help in dire situations without cellular service or WiFi. Apple said the service would launch first in the U.S. and Canada when it debuts in November. But a report from MacPrime indicates the company will support more regions sooner than expected.

Unfortunately, the exact regions where it’s soon-to-come have not been revealed. But Apple did tell MacPrime, a Swiss tech blog, that the satellite connectivity ability will come to additional countries this year. This is based on a Google-translated version of MacPrime’s article, though 9to5Mac also reported on the news. We can also expect even more countries to get the Emergency SOS feature later, in 2023.

As we covered in our iPhone 14 Pro review, the Emergency SOS feature enables you to get in touch with an OnStar-like authorized worker no matter where you are in the world, provided you have clear access to the sky, by compressing your message to mere bits. The Emergency SOS feature relies on satellites high up in space to transmit that message to one of Apple’s data centers, where an attendant will be standing by to route the issue. The feature is only available on the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, the Apple Watch Series 8, second-gen Apple Watch SE, and Apple Watch Ultra, since it relies on specific hardware to connect to satellites.

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Apple already has a support page for the iPhone 14’s Emergency SOS ability. The feature isn’t available in Guam or American Samoa, and there’s a caveat that it might not work above a certain latitude. It brings to mind how much infrastructure is required to launch this sort of emergency broadcast network. The ability won’t be available until an iOS 16 software update goes live sometime in Nov. 2022. We’re still waiting for details on how much Apple’s satellite services will cost, though new iPhone 14 users will get the first two years of service free.

I’m curious what Android will concoct when it supports satellite connectivity. Android’s SVP, Hiroshi Lockheimer, subtly announced the ability via a tweet. “Wild to think about user experiences for phones that can connect to satellites,” tweeted Lockheimer. “Excited to support our partners in enabling all of this in the next version of Android!”

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The message came through shortly after T-Mobile had announced its plans to partner with SpaceX to support SMS, MMS, and select messaging apps to satellite to help increase the scope of availability among its customers. The carrier has a late 2023 target date for the beta for its services.