iPhone's Emergency SOS Launches Today With Demo Mode That Lets You Take It For A Spin

At September's release event, Apple shared plans for an Emergency SOS feature that allows users in distress to contact emergency services via satellite communications. As of November 15, a demo of the feature is available to iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, or 14 Pro Max users that have updated to iOS 16. Qualified users can find the demo in the Emergency SOS settings, says Apple. The service is currently available to demo in the United States and Canada, and will roll out to the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Ireland next month.

In times of distress when no cellular reception or Wi-Fi is available, Emergency SOS connects the user to the nearest Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), where an emergency call operator can obtain the phone's coordinates and communicate via simple text messages. Apple says that, even if the nearest call center is not equipped to communicate via Emergency SOS texts, the user can be relayed to "Apple-trained emergency specialist" centers instead.

Demo participants won't need to actually contact emergency services, but their testing will help gauge satellite connectivity and bandwidth speeds.

The service will 'save lives,' Apple says

The service works by prompting the user to answer a series of questions — where they are, if there's injuries, what services are needed — and sends the responses along with the phone's location, altitude, battery level, and Medical ID (if enabled by the user) to the responders.

While Emergency SOS provides a communications lifeline even when cell towers are out of reach or offline — as they may be in natural disasters — sending a text via the satellite system can take several minutes, and speed will depend on cloud cover, obstructions like trees or mountains, and location of the satellite. In the most ideal conditions, message transmission could take as little as 15 seconds, per Apple.

In addition to the new SOS service, iPhone 14 owners can also use satellite connections to share their location with friends and family via the Find My app, which is great for off-grid hikers, campers, or outfitters.