Apple's iPhone 14 satellite SOS feature has already saved someone
Alaskan state troopers were impressed with its accuracy
➡️ The Shortcut Skinny: a snowmobile snafu
☃️ An Alaskan man was stranded with his snowmobile in a remote location
📡 He used Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite feature to get help
👮 State troopers dispatched volunteer searchers, who rescued him
👍 Troopers were reportedly “impressed” by the detailed alert
🙏 The man was apparently uninjured
Apple’s iPhone 14 ‘Emergency SOS via satellite’ feature has already saved the life of a man stranded in a remote part of Alaska, just days after the iOS 16.1 release activated the safety measure.
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Alaskan state troopers reportedly said they were impressed with the thorough, accurate information they were given by the alert, which they received around 2am local time Thursday morning. Evidently, the man was traveling by snow machine between two remote towns – Noorvik, AK and Kotzebue, AK – a trip that may have ranged from 78 miles to 128 miles, at least according to the routes I charted using Google Maps (I have no knowledge of the terrain, but it appears no roads connect the towns, so I made a couple of best guesses).
When he became stranded on Nimiuk Point, which is an area of the same peninsula as Kotzebue, he activated the satellite SOS feature. The Northwest Arctic Borough Search and Rescue (NWAB SAR)coordinator sent four volunteers to Nimiuk Point, an area on the same peninsula that holds Kotzebue, the man’s destination. According to the Alaska state trooper report, they worked in conjunction with representatives from the Apple Emergency Response Center to locate the man and take him to Kotzebue. No injuries were reported.
At the time of his rescue, the temperature on the peninsula was about 21 degrees Fahrenheit, according to readings at the nearest weather station in Kotzebue.
How Emergency SOS via satellite works
Emergency SOS via satellite works by having the person using it answer some straightforward questions about their situation, then encrypting and relaying those answers and the person’s location to the nearest authorities. In this case, the man was outside the guaranteed range of the feature at nearly 67 degrees northern latitude (Apple says it may not work farther north than 62 degrees). The feature also alerts those labeled as emergency contacts in your phone, providing the same information, along with your location, to those people.
Prior to this, the other big safety feature of the iPhone 14 is car crash detection, which was rolled out with the new phones on iOS 16 on September 12 of this year. It took a little longer to see the first report of car crash detection save lives. A month and a half later on October 28, an Indianapolis man drove his car into a pole shortly after buying his new Apple Watch Series 8 (which also sports the feature), triggering the crash detection feature and prompting his device to contact emergency services, who arrived in mere minutes.
Apple’s car crash detection, which has already existed as a feature on Android phones since 2019, has yielded some false alarms, with emergency services reportedly contacted in response to roller coaster rides and ski outings. The newly-released iOS 16.1.2, which brings with it security updates, improved compatibility with wireless carriers and “crash detection optimizations,” could fix the issue, but we’ll have to wait and see.
I reached out to NWAB SAR for additional details on the Alaska rescue, and will update here if they respond.