Apple has given iPhone 14 series owners another free year of satellite communications, answering one of the big questions around its recent models.
Apple released its Emergency SOS via Satellite feature in the U.S. and Canada, with the iPhone 14 series last year, allowing iPhones to call for help through satellites, letting people contact the emergency services even if they are out of traditional phone coverage.
But when it released the feature, it said that it would only be available for free for one year, and gave no information about what it planned to do afterwards.
Now Apple says that it will give iPhone 14 series users another year of free coverage. Once again, it did not explicitly say what would happen when that year is up.
Apple said that “many lives” had been saved with the feature, pointing to a range of examples where people outside of usual connections are not available.
iPhone 15 series users will now also be able to use the service free for two years.
“Emergency SOS via satellite has helped save lives around the world. From a man who was rescued after his car plummeted over a 400-foot cliff in Los Angeles, to lost hikers found in the Apennine Mountains in Italy, we continue to hear stories of our customers being able to connect with emergency responders when they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to,” said Kaiann Drance, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPhone Product Marketing.
“We are so happy iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 users can take advantage of this groundbreaking service for two more years for free.”
The Emergency SOS via Satellite feature was first launched in the US and Canada on 15 November, meaning that Apple’s announcement comes on the first day that anyone would be otherwise out of coverage. iPhone 14 users must have activated their device before today to be given the extra free year.
The free trial will be extended for iPhone 14 users who have activated their device in a country that supports Emergency SOS via satellite prior to 12 a.m. PT on November 15, 2023.
The service is not free for Apple, since it must pay satellite operators for connections and also operates relay centres that pass on text messages from people’s phones to emergency service calls centres. It has not said how much the infrastructure to run the emergency SOS tool costs.
As well as allowing people to contact the emergency services, iPhone users can also update the Find My app through the satellite signal.
Emergency SOS via satellite and Find My require iOS 17.