(NewsNation) — IPhone users stuck off the grid will now be able to call for help in an emergency.
Apple’s iPhone 14 will include the technology for users in the U.S. and Canada. The service will be available to users in France, Germany, Ireland and the UK in December.
The technology lets users connect to a satellite to share their location and other information if they’re stranded without cell service or Wi-Fi.
The Emergency SOS System activates if someone tries to call 911 and there is no cell service in the area, with a message asking if they want to text emergency services. Users can also share their location with friends and family via the Find My app.
There is also an option for users to test their phone’s satellite connection without calling emergency services.
Because of their distance from the Earth and the speed at which they move, satellite communication typically requires a bulky antenna. Apple designed custom components and software to make the feature work without extra equipment.
Apple said the feature is a response to people heading for destinations like hiking trails, where cell service isn’t always available.
It’s not clear how many people go missing in the wilderness in the U.S. each year, because neither the U.S. Forest Service or the Department of the Interior track those statistics. But the ability to call for help even when out of cell range could mean lost hikers don’t need to rely on luck to be rescued.
Using Emergency SOS does require a clear, unobstructed view of the sky and messages can be slow to process due to the nature of satellite connections.
Who is on the other end of the emergency message will depend on exactly where someone is, as the U.S. doesn’t have a national emergency response system. Instead, people will be connected to the nearest emergency dispatch, which would work with local first responders and rescue teams if needed.
Apple announced the service will be free to iPhone 14 users for two years. The company has not said if it will charge for the feature in the future or what the price might be.