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iPhone 14 Satellite Connectivity: How It Works, What It Costs, etc

You’ll likely never need to utilize one of the most intriguing features in Apple’s iPhone 14 Satellite Connectivity, but it’s the capability to use satellites to call for assistance in an emergency. This new function, called Emergency SOS via satellite, enables iPhone owners to contact emergency services from virtually anywhere in the world, even when they are miles from cellular and Wi-Fi networks. Apple has expanded its market since its original launches in the United States and Canada to four other European nations, and it has further international expansion plans in the works for the upcoming year. 

The functionality was unveiled by Apple executives on September 7 during the company’s Far Out event, and they immediately noted that cellular coverage is continually expanding. The firm executives acknowledged that it is still possible to find oneself in a position with weak or no service, particularly in distant places where people are even more likely to require emergency assistance.

How Emergency SOS via satellite works #

Apple’s new satellite connectivity function is only intended for usage in an emergency. You still won’t be able to place calls or send texts on the iPhone 14 if you don’t have regular cellular connectivity; Apple hasn’t transformed it into a satellite phone. In fact, we actually hope that most people would never need the Emergency SOS via satellite feature. On your iPhone, it’s doubtful that you’ll notice any settings because it operates in the background until you need it. This serves as an alternative emergency system. It only turns on when you have absolutely no cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity from any provider. Even though satellite communications seem exciting and futuristic, dialing 911 using your cellular network is still a much more effective way to request assistance. Additionally, you can dial 911 on any cellular network in the United States and Canada, whether or not you are a subscriber to that network; you don’t even need an active SIM or eSIM in your iPhone to do this. 

Due to the signal’s longer distance to travel, satellite communications take longer than conventional cellular calls and messages to complete. In September, a spokesperson for Apple told Reuters that the company had partnered with Globalstar to deploy the satellite infrastructure and had invested a staggering $450 million to cover 95% of the costs associated with building and launching new satellites to power its futuristic emergency SOS network. Until recently, Apple had been relatively quiet about the satellite network it uses. On November 10, Apple released a media announcement with additional information, stating that its Advanced Manufacturing Fund had invested in Globalstar’s operations and mentioning that more than 300 Globalstar staff members were working to support the new satellite service. 

To be clear, 5G technologies are not at all related to Apple’s satellite communications. Contrary to a report that surfaced last year, Apple is not developing satellite communications over 5G in the same way as SpaceX and T-Mobile are. A few observers believed Apple intended to use band 53, a new 5G frequency that was licensed exclusively to Globalstar, for satellite communications after they spotted it on the iPhone 13. Globalstar, however, maintains private terrestrial LTE and 5G networks using this band in areas like the Port of Seattle and the New York Power Authority, going beyond satellites like the majority of communication technology businesses do. The subject is unrelated to satellite communication.

Instead, Apple’s satellite network will use the same bands used by most other satellite communication services, specifically the L-band and S-band frequencies. Apple confirmed this in this week’s announcement, noting, “When an iPhone user makes an Emergency SOS via satellite request, the message is received by one of Globalstar’s 24 satellites in low-earth orbit traveling at speeds of approximately 16,000 mph. The satellite then sends the message down to custom ground stations located at key points all over the world.” The 24 satellites in Apple’s new satellite network will likely be at heights comparable to the Iridium network, which orbits 485 miles above the surface of the globe, but the company hasn’t provided any other information.

In contrast, if you have cellular coverage, a cellular tower is probably not more than 10 miles distant from you. Practically speaking, this means that satellite communications are significantly slower than cellular networks even in the best circumstances—with a clear view of the sky and the horizon. In the best-case scenario, Apple claims that a brief message will normally take 15 seconds to broadcast via satellite. When you include some trees with medium foliage, the delay may exceed a minute.

This brings up another crucial aspect of Emergency SOS via satellite: You must be outside and have a clear view of the sky and horizon in order to use it. The iPhone must be pointed directly towards a satellite with an unobstructed line of sight because Apple didn’t want to put a large, bulky antenna to it. Even if you’re amid dense forest, emergency SOS via satellite might not operate, and it won’t work either if you’re inside or underground. According to Apple, high buildings, gorges, mountains, and hills can all hinder the establishment of a satellite link.

How do I summon help via satellite in an emergency? #

Thankfully, Apple has taken these delays into account. In an emergency, you want to seek aid as soon as you can, so trying to have a back-and-forth dialogue while each message can take a few minutes is ineffective. Since it’s evident that you can’t see a satellite hundreds of kilometers in orbit, your iPhone will offer instructions to help you point it in the right direction so it can pick up and lock on to an emergency satellite while also maintaining the correct orientation throughout the emergency session. 

Once you’ve established the emergency satellite link, your iPhone won’t just open a text message window; instead, it will prompt you to respond to a series of multiple-choice questions in order to swiftly describe your position and give emergency personnel essential information. These responses, along with your medical ID number, emergency contact information, location, elevation, and remaining battery life, will be sent in the initial message by your iPhone. Emergency responders may ask you for extra information by ordinary text messages after you send that initial call for assistance, but the most crucial thing is that they will have everything they need to begin your rescue. 

What do I need to use Emergency SOS via satellite? #

The iPhone 14 is the only device that supports emergency SOS via satellite, and the good news is that all iPhone 14 models, from the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 to the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, support it. Not even the Apple Watch Ultra has emergency SOS via satellite in the Apple Watch Series 8 model. Apple is aiming to add this capability to the Apple Watch, according to Mark Gurman’s earlier this year. He did caution that it might not be included in the schedule for this year. It’s unclear whether we’ll see it on a 2023 Apple Watch, but given how complicated the technology is, Apple probably still needs to work on getting it to fit into the wearable. 

Last but not least, the iPhone 14 Satellite Connectivity Emergency SOS won’t work with iPhone 14 models sold in Hong Kong, Macao, and mainland China. The reason for this may be because some models don’t support eSIM or operate on different cellular frequencies that interfere with satellite connections. It’s also possible that it’s just politics; it’s most likely no accident that Huawei unveiled its own SOS function this week, one day before Apple unveiled the iPhone 14. Beidou, China’s state-owned GPS and communications satellite network, also powers Huawei’s system.

Where can I use Emergency SOS via satellite? #

Technically, you should be able to request assistance from anywhere in the world using Emergency SOS via satellite. The issue is that getting that assistance is a little trickier because it depends on other things, like whether emergency responders in a particular nation or region are prepared for it. Additionally, keep in mind that satellites can only reflect signals back to the earth’s surface.
Since Apple and Globalstar are constructing a brand-new satellite network, they must also set up the appropriate ground stations in order to receive these signals. 

To do this, Apple and Globalstar hired Cobham Satcom, a company in California, to design and produce unique, high-powered antennas that could pick up signals from its new satellite constellation. All of Globalstar’s current ground stations, including those in Texas, Alaska, Florida, and Puerto Rico, as well as new ones constructed in Nevada and Hawaii especially for the iPhone’s new satellite communication features, according to Apple, now have these antennas installed. Launched in the US and Canada, emergency SOS includes Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands but excludes Guam and American Samoa. France, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom will all support Emergency SOS as of December 2022.

But this only pertains to the locations where Emergency SOS is really offered and has nothing to do with your home country, the area your iPhone is set to, or the carrier you typically use. As long as their iPhone 14 supports it, international visitors to the United States, Canada, and a few European nations can use Emergency SOS via satellite; sadly, those bought in mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macao are not included.

Additionally, Apple warns that in extremely northern regions — those above 62 degrees north — Emergency SOS via satellite might not function. That region includes the majority of Alaska as well as the three northernmost provinces of Canada. Only Latin characters are available in emergency text messages sent via satellite, and emergency SOS messages transmitted via satellite only support American English, American Spanish, and French Canadian. 

Is Emergency SOS via satellite available in Europe? #

As previously indicated, France, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom are among the nations in Europe where Emergency SOS is accessible through satellite. The feature has been rolled out somewhat slowly, but in 2023, Europeans outside of the nations where it is currently available should anticipate hearing more. Apple doesn’t precisely state which nations will receive support in the upcoming year, but given how crucial the company claims Emergency SOS via satellite is, it seems reasonable to anticipate an even larger growth.

When will Emergency SOS via satellite be available? #

One of the features that wasn’t included when the iPhone 14 was first introduced in September was emergency SOS via satellite.
Apple stated that it would instead be included in the iOS 16 software update, which is scheduled to release in November 2022. The business announced this week that it will arrive later this month, most likely as part of the iOS 16.2 upgrade that is presently in beta.

How much does Emergency SOS via satellite cost? #

Apple is offering its iPhone 14 Satellite Connectivity function at no additional cost, which is probably one of the most interesting and unexpected aspects about it. In a technical sense, Apple isn’t claiming that the service is free. The fact that the business is only giving it for free for two years “with the activation of any iPhone 14 model” actually implies that it may someday cost money.

What it might cost after that is unknown according to Apple. The corporation may not have even made up its mind yet, which is understandable given that it has two years to do so. In contrast, Garmin’s inReach devices have a $15 monthly subscription fee for satellite connectivity, but for that money, users receive more than just the most basic emergency services.

Given that Apple is launching its own satellites for its iPhone 14 Satellite Connectivity, investors would anticipate that the company will eventually start generating revenue from these connectivity services. However, Apple might offer a package of more sophisticated capabilities like weather and non-emergency SMS to attract users to choose a premium tier rather than charging for the basic Emergency SOS features. The good news is that you have at least two years without having to worry about recurrent charges.

What else can I use iPhone 14 satellite communications for? #

One more feature powered by iPhone 14 Satellite Connectivity may be useful even if you are not experiencing an emergency. Your friends and family will always be aware of where you are thanks to the Find My app on an iPhone 14’s ability to transmit your location through satellite. When using satellite communications, as opposed to cellular or Wi-Fi, where your location is automatically updated in the background, you will need to manually share your location. There will probably be a button in the iOS 16 Find My app, but it’s unclear exactly how it will operate or when it will be available. When Apple introduces its satellite connectivity features later this month, we should know more. 


Hollington, J. (2022, December 13). IPhone 14 satellite connectivity: Everything you need to know. Digital Trends. Retrieved February 14, 2023, from


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