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iPhone’s Emergency SOS feature saves a group of lost hikers in California

Published May 19th, 2023 8:44PM EDT
iPhone 14 using the SOS via satellite feature
Image: Apple

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The iPhone 14’s SOS via satellite feature has saved another life. Well, in this case, a whole group of them.

As reported by NBC News, a group of teens got lost while hiking in Southern California. After being lost for about three hours in a canyon, one of the ten people in the group used the Emergency SOS features on their iPhone to call for help.

According to Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Mackenzie Spears, “most of the hikers were not prepared” for the hike and lacked the proper gear and supplies for hiking in the conditions they were in.

“Most had t-shirts and shorts,” Spears said. She added that temperatures were in the 60s and that “there were multiple water crossings and they needed to scramble” in certain sections of the hike, or climb steep terrain by hand.

Thankfully, one of the people had an iPhone and was able to use Apple’s Emergency SOS features to call for help. It’s currently unclear if they had cell service or used the company’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature, which allows iPhone 14 owners to call emergency services without the need for a cellular connection.

While Apple has had emergency SOS features on the iPhone for a while, the Emergency SOS via satellite feature is new for the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro, which Apple released in September of last year. The feature “combines custom components deeply integrated with software to allow antennas to connect directly to a satellite, enabling messaging with emergency services when outside of cellular or Wi-Fi coverage.”

Satellites are moving targets with low bandwidth, and it can take minutes for messages to get through. Since every second counts, with Emergency SOS via satellite, iPhone front-loads a few vital questions to assess the user’s situation and shows them where to point their phone to connect to a satellite. The initial questionnaire and follow-up messages are then relayed to centers staffed by Apple-trained specialists who can call for help on the user’s behalf.”

As someone who hikes, camps, and backpacks, I made plenty of mistakes when I got started doing all of these things. Always make sure you look up the basics to know when you are setting out on a hike, even if it’s only for a few hours. Check the conditions and bring the proper gear and supplies. Always overestimate!

Today’s news comes a few days after Apple launched Emergency SOS via satellite in Australia and New Zealand.

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.

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