Merely days after Qualcomm killed its ambitious plans of bringing satellite connectivity to Android phones, Apple is giving iPhone users another year of free service for the same facility. Today, the company announced that the Emergency SOS feature will be available free of cost for all compatible devices for another year.
The emergency SOS system, which was introduced last year for the iPhone 14 series, was initially set to be free for just 12 months. It lets users latch on to a satellite network so that they can send an emergency text and share their location when they are stranded in remote areas without any Wi-Fi or cellular network. But do keep in mind that the free satellite service extension is only available for iPhones that already had it enabled as of November 15, 2023.
Apple also lets users pre-configure the sharing of their Medical ID with emergency responders and alert their emergency contacts. With the arrival of iOS 17, Apple further augmented the Emergency SOS system with a roadside assistance facility. All the aforementioned conveniences come courtesy of Apple's partnership with Globalstar. This Louisiana-based company leases its satellite network and ground stations to bring the emergency assistance system to life.
Where the competition stands
Apple initially offered Emergency SOS as a freebie for just a year, and so far, the company has been fielding the cost of satellite connectivity support on the iPhone 14 and 15 series devices. But it seems Apple has changed its mind and will offer it for another year without any additional cost.
On the Android side of the ecosystem, we have Bullit Group-backed CAT offering emergency satellite connectivity on its rugged phones. However, it allows users to text not just emergency hotlines but also any of their contacts over a satellite link. Still, they have to buy a separate plan for that facility.
Qualcomm's exit from the game after killing the Snapdragon Satellite plans was definitely a setback, but MediaTek is working with partners to enable satellite-based connectivity for Android phones. AST SpaceMobile recently successfully tested the world's first 5G voice call over a satellite network using a regular phone.
SpaceX wants to go a step further. The company recently partnered with T-Mobile and announced that customers of the Magenta Carrier won't need any special hardware to link their phones with the Starlink satellite network. Within the next couple of years, SpaceX will allow calling, texting, and internet browsing to T-Mobile subscribers.