Does iPhone SOS Work By Satellite In Remote Areas?

Color photo of the iPhone 15 SOS satellite screen superimposed over a daytime picture of the Alaskan Arctic National Park towering mountains and river valley.

In the heart of our digital age, our smartphones often double up as lifelines. Apple’s iPhone, leading this charge, boasts the Emergency SOS feature—a potential lifesaver when you are in dire straits. Does this feature come in handy in remote areas? 

The iPhone SOS works in remote areas via satellite connections on iPhones 14 and 15, as well as the 14 and 15 Pro models. The SOS function provides emergency help, text messaging your emergency contacts, current location (if available), and updates when your location changes after SOS mode for a limited time.

Emergency Preparedness and backup plans are vital. As you venture into uncharted terrains, distances vast and cell towers sparse, the emergency preparedness technology significance of this feature magnifies. Not merely a technological marvel, the emergency SOS supports the crucial aspect of emergency preparedness in today’s world.

The Specifics of iPhone Satellite SOS in Remote Areas

Color photo  of a black and green iPhone 15 screen with Emergency SOS via Satellite Information.
iPhone 15 screen with Emergency SOS via Satellite Information.

Emergencies in remote locations come with a sense of isolation. Your shouts echo into nothingness, and cell towers seem galaxies away. But with the iPhones Emergency SOS feature, your phone endeavors to pierce this isolation, trying to forge a link via satellite. 

When regular cellular connectivity abandons you, the iPhone leverages satellite networks to cast a wider, albeit more limited, net. It’s your digital flare in the vast expanse of wilderness.

This game-changing feature, however, has specific requirements. To access the Emergency SOS via satellite, you need the latest gadgets in Apple’s arsenal—iPhones 14 and 15 as well as 14 and 15 Pro models

Moreover, the software plays an equally pivotal role. Ensure your device runs iOS 16.1 or later to capitalize on this feature.

Preparation is synonymous with prevention. Before you plunge into remote landscapes, it’s essential to prime your iPhone:

  • iPhone SOS Medical ID – Your health is invaluable, and your iPhone acknowledges this. By creating a Medical ID, you provide rescuers with vital medical information. Allergies, blood type, existing medical conditions—all this data can be instrumental in emergencies. Setting this up is straightforward; dive into the health app and fill in the necessary details.
  • iPhone SOS Emergency Contacts – Your iPhone is prepared to shout for help, but whom should it call? Here’s where emergency contacts come into play. Register the details of friends or family you’d want to be informed in a crisis. These contacts receive alerts when the SOS is activated, ensuring they’re in the loop and prepared to rally resources or support.
  • iPhone Emergency SOS Demo – Every tool, no matter how intuitive, benefits from a test run. Especially for such a critical feature, a trial is crucial. Venture into open spaces devoid of interference and trigger the demo. Doing so lets you acquaint yourself with the procedure, ensuring you don’t fumble when seconds count.

Please see some our other interesting articles like “Why Satellite Communicators Are Not Satellite Phones” and “Best Emergency Preparedness Communication Systems (7 Must Own Devices).”

How to Activate the iPhone Emergency SOS Via Satellite in Remote Areas

Color photo of the bottom half on an iPhone 15 screen red words and buttons. Red words say "No Connection. Try Text via Satellite.
iPhone 15 screen red words say “No Connection. Try Text via Satellite.”

Facing an emergency can be overwhelming. The barrage of anxiety, panic, and fear can cloud judgment. Recognizing this, Apple ensures simplicity in activating the SOS.

Your first action should be instinctual: call 911 or the equivalent emergency service in your region. But the depth of remoteness might render this futile. If the call hangs in limbo, don’t despair. 

Your iPhone, if within reach of a satellite, allows you to send texts—either through the designated “Emergency Text via Satellite” feature or directly via the Messages app. It’s crucial, though, to be precise. 

Distress situations demand clarity. On selecting “Report Emergency,” you’re greeted with a streamlined interface that guides you to relay vital details about your predicament.

Connecting to a satellite isn’t always instantaneous. The environment, obstructions, or even your position can influence this. If you’re nestled within dense foliage or surrounded by towering rock formations, the satellite signal might struggle. 

It’s recommended to seek open spaces. Position your iPhone so its top faces the vast sky, maximizing the chances of a satellite connection.

What Happens Once the iPhone Emergency SOS is Connected?

Color photo of the iPhone 15 Pro black screen showing a green satellite signal direction beacon that says: Connected Keep Pointing at Satellite.
iPhone 15 Pro screen showing a green satellite signal direction beacon that says: Connected Keep Pointing at Satellite.

The success of your Emergency SOS activation brings a cascade of actions that Apple’s system undertakes to ensure your safety. One of the most crucial elements is the immediate sharing of critical information with emergency services:

  • Medical ID: Armed with details like allergies, medications, and blood type, rescue personnel can tailor their response to your specific needs, significantly reducing risks during rescue and immediate medical care.
  • Emergency Contact Information: Knowing who to notify in the face of an emergency can bridge the gap between you and loved ones, ensuring they’re alerted to the situation and can provide additional insights to rescue teams if needed.
  • Location (including elevation): This is particularly pivotal. With accurate geolocation data, including your elevation, search and rescue missions can be more targeted and efficient, speeding up response times.
  • iPhones Battery Level: A seemingly trivial detail, but in prolonged rescue operations, knowing how long they can maintain contact or track your phone can be a fundamental change for rescue teams.

While the priority is to relay this information to official emergency channels, you also have the option to loop in your personal emergency contacts. By sharing the data sent to emergency services with them, you ensure that those closest to you are informed and can take measures, be it liaising with authorities or rallying for additional help.

Emergency SOS Via Satellite and Privacy Concerns

In today’s world, the boundary between essential information and privacy is increasingly important. Emergency SOS via satellite on the iPhone certainly raises such concerns. So, where does it stand?

When you use the Emergency SOS via satellite, Apple ensures your messages remain encrypted. Apple only decrypts the messages when passing them to the respective emergency service dispatchers or relay centers. Emergency centers and relay providers might retain any information you share to refine their services, complying with relevant laws.

Using this feature means your location is shared with Apple and its partners, ensuring that emergency services can reach you swiftly..

Always committed to privacy, Apple treats any collected data in line with its Privacy Policy. Users can be assured of the balance between immediate help and data security. 

When making calls or texts through Emergency SOS via satellite, users must be on specific iOS versions, depending on the country or region. For instance: 

  • Connecting to certain emergency numbers in countries like France, Germany, and Ireland requires iOS 16.2. 
  • Austria, Belgium, and several others need iOS 16.4.

Emergency numbers vary across countries: 

  • For the US and Canada, it’s 911.
  • For Australia, 000.
  • In France, you have numbers ranging from 112 to 196.

The provision of these numbers can also depend on your cellular provider.

The emergency SOS via satellite feature encompasses many regions and territories, including: 

  • The Archipelagos of Madeira
  • Corsica
  • The US Virgin Islands

But beyond the technicalities, Apple’s goal is simple: to empower users with a tool that can be a lifeline in emergencies, all while maintaining the sanctity of personal data.

Limitations of the Emergency SOS via Satellite

Beautiful color daytime photo of an Alaskan glacier surrounded in mist and clouds across the bay with sea grasses in the foreground.
Beautiful Alaskan glacier surrounded in mist and clouds across the bay with sea grasses in the foreground.

The iPhones Emergency SOS via satellite sounds super neat, right? But like most things, it doesn’t work everywhere or under every condition:

Where and When It Works

Color daytime photo of Bering Sea pack ice in Nome Alaska.
Bering Sea pack ice in Nome Alaska.

Currently, the SOS magic works in several countries, including: 

  • Canada
  • The US
  • Parts of Europe

But here’s the catch: If you bought your iPhone in China, Hong Kong, or Macao and you’re traveling, you can’t use this feature.

  • No Bars? No Problem: This feature needs places with no Wi-Fi or cell signal. Only then does it reach out to satellites.
  • Some Blind Spots: Planning a trek up in the far north? Say, parts of Canada or Alaska? Satellite might give you the cold shoulder.
  • Nature’s Mood: The satellite might struggle to get a signal if you’re diving deep into thick woods or climbing high mountains.
  • Battery Life: SOS can be a battery guzzler, especially in weak signal areas. So, if you see your battery draining, be mindful!
  • Knowledge is Power: Research is your best buddy. Know where you’re heading and if you’ll get coverage.

Additional Tips for Emergency Preparedness

The iPhone 14 and 15’s SOS is an incredible leap forward, eliminating the need possibly for a satellite communicator, but it’s not the only superhero in town. Have backup plans:

  • Refresh Your Info: Regularly update your Medical ID and emergency contacts. It’s like keeping your address book in check.
  • Power to the People: A portable solar charger is like a lifeline in the middle of nowhere.
  • Sharing Is Caring: Always let someone like family, friend, or a neighbor–know where you’re going. An extra pair of eyes never hurt.
  • Old School Tools: A compass or map won’t disappoint you even in this tech age. They’re like that reliable friend you can always count on.

Find My App

Staying proactive can be a lifeline. The “Find My App isn’t just for locating misplaced devices. When activated, your location can be shared in real time with designated contacts. This continuous stream of location data can be invaluable if you’re moving or your situation worsens, ensuring a constant line of information for those monitoring your well-being.

Find My App can find your missing device even if it is not connected to the internet or has little to no battery life through the Find My network.

 It’s worth noting that locations shared via satellite in the Find My feature are encrypted end-to-end, making them inaccessible even to Apple

Emergency Kits

Adding to that, emergency kits are lifesavers. Stock up on essentials: band-aids, antiseptics, medicines, and more. And when the grid fails, the following gadgets could be your best friends: 


Beautiful color daytime photo of Alaskan snow covered mountains across a blue ocean bay.
Beautiful Alaskan snow covered mountains across a blue ocean bay.

As we said in the beginning of this article, emergency preparedness and backup plans are vital and at the end of the day, only you can take care of yourself. Along with an SOS capable iPhone, you should have a way to charge that iPhone in remote areas like a solar charger.

All in all, the iPhone 14 and 15’s SOS is a gem. But remember, it’s just one of the many tools you should have. Venturing out? Be smart, plan ahead, and most importantly, be safe. Every adventure should end with you coming home with cool stories!


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John Mortensen

As a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, geologist, or scientist. I became a project manager which is involved with many of those things. I am a project manager and tech writer who researches the latest alternative and green technologies. We write helpful articles about green electronics and green technology products. AI, extreme weather, electric vehicles, are all in our future and we want to know the best way to deal with the effects of these on the power grid and emergency preparedness.

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