How to Use Emergency SOS via Satellite on Your iPhone

It's not fast and it's tricky to do right, but you can contact emergency services without a cell signal or Wi-Fi

What to Know

  • First, try to call emergency services normally. If your phone can’t connect, it will give you the satellite option.
  • Tap Emergency Text via Satellite and follow the on-screen prompts to establish a satellite connection.
  • Speaking with emergency help isn't possible, but your location will be sent and you'll be able to text with help.

This article explains how to use the emergency SOS via satellite feature on your iPhone. This feature requires an iPhone 14 with iOS 16.1.1 or later, and it works differently from other iPhone SOS features.

How to Connect Your iPhone to a Satellite

The iPhone 14 has the ability to connect to a satellite, but only in emergency situations. You can’t place normal phone calls via satellite, and the option only comes up when you try to contact emergency services in an area where you don’t have access to cellular service or Wi-Fi.

Here’s how to connect your iPhone to a satellite in an emergency:

  1. Attempt to call or message emergency services.

  2. If your phone is unable to establish a connection, the option to connect via satellite will appear.

    This option also shows up if you attempt to text 911 or SOS via Messages and your phone is unable to establish a connection.

  3. Tap Emergency Text via Satellite.

  4. The next screen will present you with an emergency questionnaire, so tap the answers that best describe your emergency.

  5. Select whether or not to alert your emergency contacts that you have contacted emergency services.

    If you have a friend or family member set up as an emergency contact, this option will let them know that you’re having an emergency, but it won’t put you in direct contact with them.

  6. Follow the on-screen prompts to establish a satellite connection. You’ll need to hold your phone in your hand, make sure you have a clear view of the sky and horizon, and turn in the direction indicated on your phone.

    Emergency Text via Satellite highlighted in iPhone emergency via satellite demonstration screens

    Anything that obstructs the sky and horizon can block the connection, including buildings, mountains, and even trees.

  7. After the connection is established, you’ll be connected to emergency services. Your iPhone will automatically transmit the answers to your emergency questionnaire and your physical location.

  8. Remain connected and keep your phone out, as emergency services may have additional questions. You will be able to communicate via text message at this time, but messages can take 15 seconds to one minute to send and receive.

    The connection may be interrupted from time to time, but it will reestablish automatically, so don't put your phone away until you have received help

What Is Emergency SOS via Satellite?

Emergency SOS via Satellite is a safety feature that enables emergency satellite connectivity in the iPhone 14. This feature is enabled in iOS 16.1.1, but only for the iPhone 14. Older iPhones don't have the necessary hardware, so they can't establish emergency satellite connections.

This feature facilitates a connection to emergency services when a connection isn’t possible through other means. It doesn’t let you place calls or turn your iPhone into a satellite phone, but it does allow you to communicate with emergency services via a satellite connection in situations where cell service and Wi-Fi are unavailable.

Unlike other iPhone SOS features, you don’t need to set up SOS via Satellite or make any preparations ahead of time, other than to make sure your phone is updated. As long as your phone supports this feature, it will present you with the option to connect to emergency services via satellite whenever a traditional connection isn’t available.

Where Is Emergency SOS via Satellite Available?

This feature is only available in the United States and Canada. Some United States territories aren’t covered though, and Apple maintains a list of the specific areas where you can use SOS via Satellite. It isn’t guaranteed to work everywhere though, and Apple cautions specifically that it may not work in parts of Alaska and Canada located above 62 degrees latitude.

Additionally, SOS via Satellite is only available in areas where there isn’t any cellular or Wi-Fi coverage. If your phone is able to connect to a cell tower or a Wi-Fi network, you can contact emergency services that way instead.

While this feature is limited to the United States and Canada, that doesn’t mean it’s limited to residents of those countries. International travelers are able to use this feature when visiting the United States and Canada in most cases, although it isn’t available on iPhones purchased in China, including phones from both Hong Kong and Macao.

  • What happens if I accidentally call emergency SOS on my iPhone?

    If you accidentally call emergency services, you should stay on the line and explain that you called by mistake. If you hang up, they will likely call you back.

  • How do I add emergency contacts on my iPhone?

    To add emergency contacts on your iPhone, go to Phone > Contacts. Choose a contact and tap Add to Emergency Contacts.

  • How do I turn off emergency alerts on my iPhone?

    To turn off iPhone emergency alerts, go to Settings > Notifications > Government Alerts. Use the toggle switches to enable or disable what you want. Do Not Disturb doesn't silence government alerts.

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