Apple has launched a new satellite SOS system for iPhone users in the UK so people can ask for help from 999 responders even when there is no mobile reception.
The US tech giant said its Emergency SOS via satellite service, which is available for its iPhone 14 smartphones, went live in the UK on Tuesday morning.
The technology connects customers to a passing satellite so they can send out a distress beacon, telling responders if they are lost or injured, even if they have no other signal from terrestrial phone or data networks.
If an iPhone user finds themselves in an emergency with no signal, dialing 999 will prompt them to try and connect to a satellite. The iPhone then sends a text message, which is picked up by a safety team employed by Apple.
The team will ask questions, via text, such as the nature of the emergency, and pass the location and message on to emergency responders.
The service uses satellites from GlobalStar, connecting to satellites passing thousands of miles above the earth. Users will be directed to point their phone in the direction of the passing satellite so it can pick up the signal.
The huge distance means the iPhones can only send and receive tiny packets of data in the form of specially coded texts, which are three times smaller than normal SMS messages.
Starting on Tuesday, iPhone users can test the service without contacting the emergency services from within the Settings section of their phone by clicking Try Demo.
Tech companies have been exploring using satellites to fill in mobile black spots.
Apple’s service can also be set up to notify a user’s emergency contacts they need help. In a non-emergency, it can also send contacts an update with the user’s location if they are outside mobile signal range.
This summer, T-Mobile signed a deal with Elon Musk’s Starlink to develop a mobile broadband network using the billionaire’s network of thousands of low orbit satellites.
John Anthony, the British Association of Public Safety Communications Officials’ president, said: “Being able to use a satellite connection to contact 999 or 112 if there is no cellular or Wi-Fi coverage is a breakthrough that Apple has brought to the general public. with iPhone 14.
“Ultimately, this will help save lives.”