iPhone ability to send SOS via satellite


With its iPhone 14 Pro, Apple has integrated a new feature of calling emergency services via satellite connections when off the grid. As of now, only those in the U.S. and Canada can access this feature, but this service will soon be extended for those in the UK, Ireland, France, and Germany. To make this possible, Apple invested $450 million in Globalstar, an American satellite company, for this service. Globalstar has 24 satellites circulating in low orbit, which then relay the signals to ground stations.

It’s an interesting choice on Apple’s part to delegate such an important feature to another company (and a relatively small one, with just over 300 employees). Of course, Apple doesn’t currently operate any satellites and would require technology of another satellite communications corporation for such a feature, but Apple is putting a lot of trust in Globalstar’s hands, ensuring that customer data is transmitted securely.

Globalstar certainly has built the reputation of being a capable satellite comms company, handling customer data of 120+ countries for just over three decades. However, this deal with Apple is one of the largest for the company to date. It’s quite possible that an effort to quickly scale and incorporate a much larger network could sacrifice security, especially at the ground station, a particularly vulnerable part of the network where all communications must pass. Emergency messages relay not only the user’s message but also location, and this information could be easily intercepted at the ground station layer. Overall, it’s exciting to see satellite technology being incorporated into iPhones for emergency, but Apple should take caution in protecting customer data.