Months after it was announced at an event in September, Emergency SOS via satellite, Apple's service for the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro that uses satellite to route emergency calls, launched today. Supported iPhones in the U.S. and Canada updated with the latest iOS 16 can send an SOS even when they're off the grid, no dish required, thanks to an upgraded wireless chipset and Apple's partnership with satellite service provider Globalstar.
Emergency SOS via satellite will expand to France, Germany, Ireland and the U.K. next month, Apple announced this morning.
As my colleague Devin Coldewey noted in his coverage of Emergency SOS earlier this year, the service differs from the satellite-based data and text connectivity offered by Lynk and T-Mobile and Starlink. While those rely on cell towers strong enough to reach and receive a satellite signal, Emergency SOS — via Globalstar — uses bands that normally require a special antenna.
It's a costly venture. Apple recently pledged $450 million through its Advanced Manufacturing Fund toward expanding the infrastructure powering Emergency SOS, including the satellite network and ground stations. A part of the funding went toward installing custom-built antennas designed to receive signals transmitted by Globalstar's satellite constellation.
One presumes that Apple intends to eventually recoup its investment. But for now, Emergency SOS is fee-free. Existing iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro owners won't have to pay for at least two years from today, while new iPhone owners will receive free service for two years from when they activate their phones.