iPhone 14’s Emergency SOS feature is coming to Ireland next month

16 Nov 2022

A ground station owned by satellite company Globalstar. Apple partnered with Globalstar to develop the Emergency SOS feature. Image: Apple

Apple has invested $450m to develop the infrastructure for this safety feature, which connects users with emergency services when cellular and Wi-Fi coverage are not available.

Apple’s Emergency SOS safety feature for the latest iPhone is coming to Ireland and other European countries next month.

The satellite-based safety feature lets iPhone 14 users connect with emergency services when cellular and Wi-Fi coverage are unavailable.

Emergency SOS launched in the US and Canada this week, with plans to expand the feature to Ireland, France, Germany and the UK in December.

“Some of the most popular places to travel are off the beaten path and simply lack cellular coverage,” said Apple senior VP of world marketing Greg Joswiak. “With Emergency SOS via satellite, the iPhone 14 line-up provides an indispensable tool that can get users the help they need while they are off the grid.”

Apple said that every model of the iPhone 14 can connect directly to a satellite thanks to “custom-designed components and deeply integrated software”. If no coverage is available, an interface appears on the iPhone to help the user establish a satellite connection.

A short questionnaire appears on screen to help the user answer important questions. These responses are transmitted to dispatchers in the initial message, to help them quickly learn the user’s situation and location.

Apple said the transcript of responses and follow-up messages can also be shared with a user’s emergency contacts to keep them informed.

For those who go off the grid but are not in an emergency, Apple said the technology lets users share their location via satellites with the Find My app. The iPhone maker said this makes it easier for users to share their location with family and friends.

The satellite connection on iPhone 14 models also works with other safety features, such as the Crash Detection and Fall Detection functions.

Globalstar partnership

To develop the Emergency SOS feature, Apple partnered with satellite company Globalstar to get the necessary infrastructure in place.

Earlier this week, Apple said it invested $450m in this service, with most of the funding going to Globalstar’s satellite network and ground stations.

Globalstar has 24 satellites in low-Earth orbit that can detect Emergency SOS messages. These satellites then send the message down to ground stations located at key points worldwide.

“We are proud that Globalstar’s satellites and spectrum assets will play a central role in saving lives,” said Globalstar executive chair Jay Monroe.

“With Apple’s infrastructure investment, we’ve grown our teams in California and elsewhere to construct, expand and upgrade our ground stations, and we look forward to the next chapter in Globalstar’s life-saving technology.”

Apple announced the Emergency SOS feature when it unveiled the new iPhone 14 line-up in September.

An Apple competitor managed to be first in this satellite communications race, however. One of Huawei’s latest smartphones is able to connect to the Chinese satellite system, providing data for emergencies when mobile networks are unavailable.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic