Apple has introduced a groundbreaking new safety feature for iPhone users in Australia and New Zealand.
The technology will enable users with iPhone 14 models to send an alert to emergency services even if they are outside mobile and Wi-Fi coverage areas.
It makes for a particularly handy update for iPhone 14 users in Australia, where reception black spots dot many regional and remote areas, or even for people who like to go off the grid for a trip into the bush.
The feature also proves useful in emergencies by enabling users to activate the “Find My” app to share their location with contacts via satellite – to give assurance to loved ones, say, if they were are travelling to or through a remote destination.
How Emergency SOS via satellite works
When set up and activated, Emergency SOS via satellite works by connecting a user to emergency services via text messages to a relay centre with Apple-trained emergency specialists who then connect to emergency call centres.
They must first attempt to call emergency services (000), and when the call fails a user can tap to “text via satellite’.
A short user-friendly questionnaire will appear for the user to answer vital questions about the kind of emergency they are in, their location, and if there are any or multiple casualties to treat.
After the questionnaire, users will be guided to point their phone in the direction of the nearest satellite to send the initial message to dispatchers.
The message contains the questionnaire responses, their location (including altitude), iPhone battery level, and Medical ID, if enabled, and can take as little as 15 seconds to send in clear conditions.
It will also automatically alert your emergency contacts to your location, and users can choose to send a live transcript of the text messages with the relay centre to them, too.
Basically, Emergency SOS via satellites is triage for off-the-grid emergencies, giving users and first responders the best and safest chance for success.
The technology also works for non-emergencies, enabling users to share their location via satellite in the Find My app. iPhone 14 users can go find the “Me” tab in the Find My app, scroll down to “My Location via Satellite” and tap “Send My Location”.
The feature also is designed to work with other Apple safety features like Crash Detection and Fall Detection, and has been developed to automatically connect with the relay centre if a user is unresponsive.
Users can test their phone’s satellite connectivity and test-run the new Emergency SOS features by connecting to a real satellite but without contacting emergency services.
Australia and New Zealand are the 13th and 14th countries to adopt the bespoke technology, which was launched in the US and Canada on November 15, 2022 before moving to countries in Europe and the UK in December.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the Albanese government welcomed the “innovative” technology that would be a “strong backup to keep Australians connected in an amergency”.
“Australians know full well the importance of remaining connected in regional, rural, and remote areas, particularly when they need emergency services,” she said.
“This will go a long way in helping emergency services respond to, protect, and ultimately, keep individuals safe from harm.”
And the technology has already saved lives, including two people who were trapped in an isolated canyon without phone service after their car veered off the road in a California national forest. Another man was also rescued by using the feature when he got stranded in the snow in Alaska.
Emergency SOS via satellite is available in Australia and New Zealand from Monday, May 15 on every model of the iPhone 14 – including the base phone, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, and 14 Pro Max.
It will be free for two years at the time of activating a new iPhone 14 model.