Apple’s innovative Emergency SOS via satellite service is now operational in New Zealand and Australia. Starting today, iPhone 14 users can send messages to emergency services or share their location with others when cellular and Wi-Fi networks are unavailable using a direct satellite link.

The service, compatible with iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max models, utilises custom-designed hardware and advanced software to connect directly to satellites. It enhances existing features such as Emergency SOS, Medical ID, emergency contacts, and Find My location sharing.

The Emergency SOS via satellite service works by routing users to relay centres staffed with Apple-trained specialists. These experts can liaise with Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) or emergency call centres, ensuring prompt assistance. Having proven its effectiveness in 12 countries to date, the service will be available free for two years from activation of a new iPhone 14 model in New Zealand and Australia.

To use the service, users press and hold the side button with one of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears. If there’s no cellular or Wi-Fi coverage, the Emergency SOS via satellite interface initiates, offering a satellite connection. The user then fills out a short questionnaire to provide crucial information to emergency services. The iPhone guides the user to aim the device at the sky to send this initial message, which includes questionnaire responses, location details, iPhone battery level, and Medical ID if activated. The transcript of the conversation can be shared with the user’s emergency contacts.

Apple has developed custom components and software to connect the iPhone 14 to unique satellite frequencies, eliminating the need for a bulky antenna. A text compression algorithm reduces message size by 3x, allowing faster transmission. In optimal conditions, users can send and receive messages within 15 seconds.

A built-in demo lets users test satellite connectivity without contacting emergency services.

For non-emergency scenarios, iPhone 14 users can share their location via satellite through the Find My app when out of cellular or Wi-Fi range.

New Zealand and Australia join 12 other countries, including the U.S., U.K., and Canada, where the Emergency SOS via satellite service is already available. The service requires iOS 16.4 or later.