It’s been a year since Apple launched “Emergency SOS via satellite” on the iPhone—and reports suggest that the feature is already saving lives.

For example, after a car with two passengers went off the road in Los Angeles, an iPhone 14 in the vehicle registered the accident (via the Crash Detection feature that was also introduced with the 2022 models) and contacted emergency services automatically over a satellite connection, as there was no Wi-Fi or mobile data available.

Apple says it’s intended for “exceptional circumstances when no other means of reaching the emergency services are available.” When you’re in trouble and you can’t get a Wi-Fi signal or a lock on a cell tower, your iPhone 14 will make contact with a satellite and send out your plea for help that way.

Be warned, though, this isn’t a backup internet connection for personal use. The satellite connection is slow and limited, and it’s really only suitable for transmitting key information about your situation: where you are, what condition you’re in, and what you need help with.

Unfortunately, you do need a recent version of Apple’s smartphone, the iPhone 14 or 15, to use Emergency SOS via satellite. While the company has not revealed long-term pricing for the critical feature, it’s free for two years when you activate a compatible device. Apple recently announced that it’s giving iPhone 14 owners who previously activated the feature another year of free access.

How Emergency SOS via Satellite Works

iPhone 14 displaying Emergency SOS messages

The service sends key information to emergency responders.

Courtesy of Apple

Emergency SOS via satellite becomes available only when you’re in an area without any Wi-Fi or cellular coverage—otherwise it’s expected that you can get in touch with emergency services or your trusted contacts in the normal way. Ideally, you need a clear view of the sky and the horizon, as obstructions like foliage and mountains can slow or even block your satellite connection.