iPhone 14 Owners Will Continue to Get Free Emergency SOS via Satellite Until Late 2025

Emergency SOS via Satellite 1 Credit: Apple
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A little over a year ago, Apple changed the game for emergency accessibility when it announced Emergency SOS via Satellite, a new feature to allow anyone with any iPhone 14 or later iPhone model to reach out for emergency help even when stranded far from cellular and Wi-Fi coverage.

When Apple debuted the feature, it announced that satellite access would be free for two years with the purchase of any iPhone 14. Although it didn’t provide any details on the plan for those who choose to keep their iPhone 14 into a third year, the assumption is that it would eventually start charging for the service.

However, we may have to wait until 2025 to find out. Today, Apple announced that it’s extending free access to Emergency SOS Satellite services for another year for anybody who already owns an iPhone 14. Since Apple made the same offer of two years of service for iPhone 15 buyers this year, the new timeline means that both iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 owners can expect to receive free satellite features until at least November 2025.

Apple’s Satellite Services

While we’d heard rumors of Apple’s satellite connectivity plans back in 2021, those didn’t materialize in the iPhone 13 as expected, and it seems some analysts conflated Apple’s plans for a terrestrial 5G frequency used by satellite company Globalstar with actual earth-to-space communications.

With the iPhone 14 lineup, Apple added the hardware needed to allow signals to reach low earth orbit without bulking up the iPhone with additional antennas. Although Apple’s satellite services didn’t provide as many features as those offered by dedicated satellite communicators from companies like Garmin, that wasn’t the point.

Instead, Apple’s vision for satellite connectivity was to ensure that no iPhone user would ever be stranded without access to emergency services, even in remote locations where traditional cellular networks can’t reach. While some iPhone users have come up with clever ways to get help in these situations or have been lucky to have cell phone coverage in unexpected places, we may never know for sure how many weren’t so fortunate when they found themselves in the middle of nowhere with a dreaded “No Service” indicator.

Apple has been pulling out all the stops to make sure Emergency SOS via Satellite can fill in those gaps. It even spent nearly half a billion dollars to launch its own satellite constellation with the help of Globalstar to power its iPhone satellite connectivity features — a project we first heard murmurs about in 2019.

So far, the initiative has been paying off, with numerous stories of folks in life-threatening situations being rescued only because their iPhone was able to link up with a satellite — from putting out fires on remote Canadian islands and saving families from the Maui wildfires to rescuing stranded hikers.

Apple Continues Offering Emergency SOS via Satellite for Free

Perhaps the most amazing part of Apple’s emergency satellite feature is that the company included two years of connectivity at no additional charge with every new iPhone 14 purchase. Whether you bought the most affordable 128GB standard iPhone 14 or the priciest 1TB iPhone 14 Pro Max, you got Emergency SOS via Satellite included without the need to pay anything extra.

That’s a stark contrast to companies like Garmin, which charges a minimum of $15 per month to keep their dedicated InReach satellite communicators connected. Garmin also offers additional services for that price, including the ability to send up to 10 short text messages at no additional cost, but extra texts will set you back $0.50 each, not unlike the early days of cellular SMS messaging. Those who want unlimited messaging will need to shell out $65 per month for Garmin’s “Expedition” plan, and those prices don’t include activation fees or other separately billed services like premium weather reports, which are billed at $1 each time you request one.

Of course, it costs money to put satellites in orbit and build ground stations to communicate with them, and those costs have to be recouped somehow. Garmin uses the Iridium satellite network and presumably has to pay Iridium for the traffic exchanged with its satellites. As we mentioned earlier, Apple has its own satellites, but it still cost hundreds of millions of dollars to put those in orbit. Sooner or later, Apple’s investors will want to see financial results from that expenditure beyond an increase in iPhone sales.

So, we fully expected Apple to start charging for these services eventually, but it’s now pushed that timeline back by at least another year. Based on today’s announcement, no iPhone 14 or iPhone 15 owner will need to pay for Emergency SOS via Satellite until at least November 15, 2025.

Specifically, Apple says that anybody who activated an iPhone 14 in a country that supports Emergency SOS via Satellite before 12 a.m. PT on November 15, 2023, will receive an additional year of service. Presumably, this means if you activated an iPhone 14 yesterday, you could be covered until November 14, 2026, since you’d get the standard two years that still come with the purchase of any new iPhone 14 or iPhone 15, plus the extended year.

While the iPhone 14 first went on sale on September 16, 2022, Apple didn’t launch its satellite features until November 15, 2022, so that’s the date the clock actually started. This means all iPhone 14 owners were slated to receive free satellite coverage until at least November 15, 2024 — even if they purchased their new iPhone on launch day. However, today’s announcement means these folks will now be covered until at least November 15, 2025.

Wonderlust iPhone 15 Satellite Services

We are so happy iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 users can take advantage of this groundbreaking service for two more years for free.Kaiann Drance, Apple VP of Worldwide Product Marketing

Apple’s announcement also mentions the extension only in the context of the Emergency SOS via Satellite feature, so it’s not clear whether the new Roadside Assistance via Satellite is also included — or even the ability to report your Find My location via Satellite when cellular connectivity is not available. Like Emergency SOS via Satellite, these are also included free for two years with the activation of a new iPhone 14 or iPhone 15, so we presume they’re also part of the extension. Still, it’s not entirely clear from the wording of the announcement or any of the other information available on Apple’s website right now.

We’ve reached out to Apple for clarification and will update this article once we have more information.

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