Apple extends free Emergency SOS via satellite service for iPhone 14 users

Nov 16, 2023

Apple has announced that it has extended the free Emergency SOS via satellite service for iPhone 14 users. Existing users will be able to access the service for another year.

Apple debuted the revolutionary communication system in 2022, when it announced the iPhone 14 and iOS 16, along with the Car Crash Detection System. Users who were stranded in a place without a mobile network signal or Wi-Fi network, e.g. a mountain, forest, canyon, etc., could use the Emergency SOS via Satellite feature and point their iPhone towards the sky to latch on to a Satellite's signal, and send out an emergency text to one of the relay services, including the nature of the emergency, their location, medical condition, etc. The relay team will pass the information on to rescue services, who will locate the victim based on the data that they provided. Emergency SOS via Satellite has been proven to be very successful numerous times as it has saved several hikers, people who fell from a cliff, etc.

Apple added another feature to its Satellite-based system this year, with the launch of iPhone 15 and iOS 17, when it introduced Road Side Assistance to help people stranded in remote places to seek help related to their vehicle. The Californian company has partnered with AAA to provide the service in the U.S.

While the Emergency SOS feature debuted in the U.S. and Canada, it has been expanded to several Countries over the past year. Emergency SOS via satellite is now available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the U.K., and the U.S. It can be used on the following phones: iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 15, or iPhone 15 Pro.

Many users were confused what would happen after the one-year free trial for the service came to an end. It's staying free, for another year, at least. An announcement on Apple's website states that the company has extended the service for users who have activated their device in a country that supports the feature prior to 12 a.m. PT on November 15, 2023.

So why did Apple extend free access to the Emergency SOS Satellite service? Could it be due to some possible competition?

Qualcomm ends its Snapdragon Satellite SOS system

Things were developing on the Android side, with Qualcomm, which announced the Snapdragon Satellite in January 2023. It wanted to create its own Satellite System for Android devices to compete directly with Apple's offering. But that plan seems to have ended rather unceremoniously. Ars Technica reported two days ago that Qualcomm dissolved its partnership with its satellite provider, Iridium. The reason? There were simply no takers for it, no manufacturer was interested in adding the technology to their phones, possibly due to the costs involved.

Apple has not yet revealed the price of the Emergency SOS via satellite service. It is possible that the Cupertino company has not settled on a fee for it, and is analyzing the situation. This brings up a question, how do you put a price on a life?

This is not like insurance, which is optional, Emergency SOS literally allows you to seek help when there is no other option left. What if, someone gets stuck in a life or death situation, and they don't have a subscription for accessing the service? Would they still be able to use the service, and pay the fee later? What if they couldn't? That could end in some lawsuits, perhaps those are some of the issues that Apple is working on. In a perfect world, life-saving measures such as these should be free, or at least the cost should be borne by the Government, I guess we'll find out in a year or so. For now, it is a free, useful, life-saving service, and a good feature for Apple to market to users.

Apple extends free Emergency SOS via satellite service for iPhone 14 users
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Apple extends free Emergency SOS via satellite service for iPhone 14 users
Apple is extending free access for its Emergency SOS via satellite service.

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