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Apple extends its emergency satellite service to Europe

iPhone 14 users in France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK can now connect with emergency services when cellular and Wi-Fi coverage is not available, Apple has announced.

Emergency SOS via satellite connects distressed users outside the mobile coverage area with Apple-trained staff, who then contact emergency services on their behalf. Users who dial local emergency services will automatically be directed to 112, the European emergency phone number.

"In practice, it means that many more people will be able to contact 112 when they have no mobile coverage and need urgent assistance," said Garry Machado, CEO of the European Emergency Number Association.

He added: "We are confident that this will save many lives and offer significant help to emergency services dealing with these often very complicated rescues."

The service also allows users to notify their friends and family of their whereabouts via the Find My app when in an area with no cellular or Wi-Fi coverage.

Images by Apple

Emergency SOS via satellite requires iOS 16.2 and builds on existing iPhone features, including Find My location sharing, Medical ID, and emergency contacts. It also works with other iPhone and Apple Watch safety features, such as Crash Detection and Fall Detection.

The satellite service is available to all the models in Apple's latest lineup of iPhones unveiled in September, including the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Even short messages can take a few minutes to get through to fast-moving, low-bandwidth satellites located more than 1,000 kilometers from Earth.

To address this, Apple said it had developed a text compression algorithm that reduces the average size of messages by three times. As a result, users could send and receive messages in as little as 15 seconds in "clear conditions."

"The function can be used immediately without any adjustments to existing systems," said Jan Tino Demel, chairman of the Expert Group for Control Center Technology and Emergency Calls Committee.

Users can familiarize themselves with the service by test connecting to an actual satellite closest to them without calling emergency services.

Emergency SOS via satellite has already rolled out in the US and Canada, with more countries to follow next year. The service is free for two years starting at the time of activation of a new iPhone 14.

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