Smartphones have been saving lives ever since they’ve were introduced.
Last year, Apple upped the ante with a feature called Emergency SOS via Satellite, which can call for help over satellites.
Now, on the one-year anniversary of the feature, they’re extending free use of the service, which has been key in various rescues since its launch.
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iPhone user Juana Reyes was two hours into a birthday hike when she stepped onto ground that gave away.
“It was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced,” Reyes told me over Zoom. “I remember feeling a pop in my ankle,” explained the San Diego resident, who was visiting Los Angeles at the time.
Suddenly, she found herself stuck with a broken ankle in the Angeles National Forest.
Her friend tried calling 911 on their smartphone, but cellular didn’t work. That’s when Reyes handed over her phone, thinking they might have different cellular carriers and perhaps hers might get through to emergency help.
The relatively new iPhone 14 tapped into its Emergency SOS via Satellite mode to get a message through for help. Reyes told me she was barely aware her phone had the feature.
“I can’t even begin to tell you when I learned about the SOS feature until I actually had to use it,” said Reyes.
Mike Liam is with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue and part of the team that responded to Reyes.
“I’m here for a fact to tell you that it’s saved lives,” said Liam, who revealed that they are getting 911 texts about 1-2 times per week on average. He likes how Apple’s system can directly interface with their dispatch systems, which means faster response times.
“The mindset is this person has a family, that desperately wants them to come home and we do everything we can to make that happen,” said Liam.
Apple introduced Emergency SOS via Satellite in November 2022 on iPhone 14 and 14 Pro models.
If cellular isn’t available, the phones search for a satellite to call for help.
“It’s been incredible for the impact it’s had on users around the world,” said Kaiann Drance, Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide iPhone Product Marketing.
Apple initially gave users two years of the service included for free. Now, they’re extending that.
“We’re thrilled to announce that those existing iPhone 14 users we’re extending an additional year free of the Emergency SOS capability for them,” said Drance in an exclusive interview with KTLA.
That means many iPhone 14 users will have free access through 2025.
Apple has not announced any pricing for the feature.
“Technology has drastically improved the search and rescue business,” added Liam.
His advice if you ever find yourself in a sticky situation: stay put while you wait for help.
As for Juana’s lesson learned?
“You’re never as prepared as you think you are,” she said.
No matter what phone you have, it’s a good idea to set up your emergency contacts (Apple, Samsung, Pixel), medical info (Apple, Samsung, Pixel) and crash detection (Apple, Pixel). If you have access to the satellite feature, you can try out a demo in Settings > Emergency SOS so you’re familiar with how to use it.
Take a minute to set up emergency info on your phone today!
Go to Settings > Emergency SOS
-make sure Call After Severe Crash is turned on
-make sure you have Emergency Contacts listed.
Open the Health app
-tap your Profile icon (upper right-hand corner) and tap Medical ID to enter your info
-make sure both Emergency Access options are enabled
Go to Settings > Safety & emergency
-check for Medical Information and Emergency contacts
-make sure Emergency SOS and Car crash detection is on
Open Personal Safety app
-fill out Medical information, Emergency contacts
-be sure Emergency info access is enabled so 911 call centers can get your location and more
Go to Settings > Safety and emergency
-tap Medical info and hit the pencil in the upper right-hand corner to add/edit your info; make sure “Show on Lock screen” is enabled
-tap Emergency Contacts and add them; make sure “Show on Lock screen” is enabled
-under Emergency SOS, be sure “Share info with emergency contacts” is enabled
-check settings under Emergency sharing