The next step in telecommunications is global cell service, and Apple recently made a significant attempt to be the first to achieve Apple confirmed on Wednesday that the iPhone 14 will include satellite connectivity. As long as the user’s iPhone 14 is close by, the feature is also compatible with Apple Watch Series 8, SE, and Ultra.
The program, called Emergency SOS, will allow phone owners to send SMS messages without a cellular connection. Apple is well aware that it is not the only company aiming for global coverage; Elon Musk disclosed similar plans just last week.
That’s most likely why Apple will offer free service for the first two years. After that, it’s available only to iPhone 14 owners in the U.S. and Canada, starting this November.
It is yet to be revealed which satellites Apple will use for this new service. However, it does pose a danger to satellite emergency service providers such as Garmin and SPOT.
Satellite messages typically require an expensive device with a powerful antenna. Devices like Garmin InReach support two-way text messaging and location sharing but need a monthly membership fee.
“We designed and built custom components and specific software so iPhone 14 antennas can connect to unique satellite frequencies,” company leaders said.
“That connection is only possible when the phone points directly at a satellite. However, satellites fly too high to be seen by the human eye. So we created a unique user experience that shows you where to point your phone to establish a connection and stay connected as the satellite moves. This way, no bulky antenna is needed.”
The major goal of the service is to provide assistance in an emergency. This is especially important in areas without cell coverage, such as the majority of Canada’s wilderness or the Arctic.
Messages from the iPhone 14 are routed to a ground station via satellite for Apple’s Emergency SOS. The ground station then relays it to the nearest emergency dispatcher.
According to Apple’s website, once connected, the iPhone instantly provides your location, Medical ID (if set up in the device), and battery level to first responders.
To save bandwidth, Apple will provide various options to pick from when communicating with emergency services. According to TechCrunch, these SOS signals can be transmitted in less than 15 seconds “if you have clear skies while you are out in the boondocks and entirely off the grid.”
Several firms have stated their intention to provide satellite cell service. For example, Elon Musk and SpaceX have teamed up with T-Mobile to bring wireless service to every region of the United States. However, that will not be available until the end of next year.
Soon, these systems will most likely combine to make emergency texting available to the entire world, regardless of location.