One of the most noteworthy updates Apple brought to the iPhone 14 series this year is Emergency SOS via satellite. It lets you send text messages to emergency services over satellite if you're in need of help and outside of cellular coverage. The company hopes you don't need to use the service, but in case you find yourself hurt and needing rescue in the wilderness, it can be frustrating if you're unfamiliar with a tool you were expecting to be helpful. Today, Apple is rolling out a demo mode of Emergency SOS via Satellite so members of the public can see how it works.
After updating your iPhone 14 (or 14 Plus or 14 Pro or 14 Pro Max), you'll need to navigate to the Emergency SOS section of Settings to find the Demo. It's worth checking this out since not many people will know what to expect nor that the first step is to dial 911, instead of looking for an app. If you're using demo mode, you won't be connected to a real emergency services agent or relay center — the company's system will navigate demo users to a server that sends canned responses. This prevents people from overloading actual call centers.
In addition to a controlled preview at Apple's campus earlier this year, I also tried the satellite communications feature for myself at a special demo last week in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Using iPhones that Apple tweaked to disable cellular services, I was able to locate and connect to passing satellites and experience how long it would take to have a text conversation with an agent. Not only was it insightful to get a sense for how much slower satellite transmissions took compared to cellular, I also learned how best to concisely convey information about my situation in as few words as possible.
Apple doesn't recommend that you try this yourself (i.e. find a place without any cellular coverage just to see what the experience is like). Instead, if you're curious about the interface and how this works, that's what this demo mode is for.
Emergency SOS via Satellite and the demo mode both roll out today in the US and Canada. Apple is also announcing that it's expanding the service to France, Germany, Ireland and the UK in December.