This Hidden iPhone Feature May Just Save Your Life In An Emergency

If you're in a place without cellular coverage, there's a way for iPhone users to reach help.
The iPhone's emergency SOS feature reportedly helped rescue people trapped by fires on Hawaii's island of Maui, according to a viral tweet thread.
Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: Reuters/Apple
The iPhone's emergency SOS feature reportedly helped rescue people trapped by fires on Hawaii's island of Maui, according to a viral tweet thread.

During natural disasters and emergencies, you can lose cellular and Wi-Fi coverage just when you need it most.

But as a popular story on Twitter (now X) recently suggests, it can sometimes be possible to send messages to emergency responders with the help of a satellite if you’re an iPhone user ― even if you don’t have a cellular connection.

Venture capitalist Michael J. Miraflor made a screenshot of an exchange between emergency responders and a family he knows that became stranded in the Maui wildfires. Miraflor said that “Apple Emergency SOS was the only way they could get in contact with first responders.”

In the text exchange Miraflor shared, a person shares their location in real-time with an emergency dispatcher while communicating: “All buildings around us on fire ... visibility is zero.” The emergency responder tells the person to “hang on” and put on the car’s hazard lights. The text exchange ends with a confirmation to an emergency responder that the family is “rescued.”

This is not the first time Apple’s Emergency Text feature has reportedly been involved in a rescue. Since it became available to iPhone users in November 2022, people have been using it to text emergency services when phone calls are not possible.

In 2022, a man in Alaska activated it to get help when he was stranded on a snow machine without cellular service. This April, a group of stranded Utah hikers in a canyon used it to text emergency services when they could not call for help.

“The canyon was about 500 feet deep of sheer rock walls, but about every 20 minutes a satellite would line up where we were in the canyon and by holding the phone up we could get a signal where we could text 911 to Emery County, and that definitely saved our butts,” one of the hikers described to Salt Lake City’s KUTV news station about the rescue.

How Apple’s Emergency Text via satellite feature works.

If your emergency call to 911 fails because there is no cellular or Wi-Fi connection, iPhones 14 and up that have iOS 16.1 will prompt you to tap the Emergency Text feature.

From there, the iPhone will ask you to answer a few questions to describe your emergency to rescuers. You will be asked to select among options, such as car issue, fire, crime, or lost or trapped, and to describe any injuries.

Then the iPhone will show you where in the sky to point your iPhone to connect to a satellite and send that initial message to emergency dispatchers who accept text messages or “to relay centers staffed by Apple‑trained specialists who can call for help on the user’s behalf,” according to Apple’s website.

The dispatcher will receive your responses and location, including altitude, phone battery level and medical information if you have Medical ID enabled on your settings.

The transcript can also be shared with the iPhone user’s emergency contacts to keep them informed about what’s happening.

Here’s how to turn it on for yourself:

1. Go to Settings
2. Tap Emergency SOS.
3. Choose which way you want to activate Emergency SOS. You can select either Call with Hold and Release, Call with 5 Button Presses or Call Quietly.

The Emergency SOS via satellite service is free for two years starting at the time of activation of a new iPhone 14 and up, and Apple has not shared how much the service will cost after that. This service is currently available in 14 countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Britain and the United States.

For users with Android devices, the upcoming Snapdragon Satellite service is expected to help them send messages when no cellular signal is available.

Though you hope to never have to worry about using a feature like this, it’s good to learn how to use it. It just might save your life.

Want to keep your battery charged on the go? Choose from these highly-rated portable phone chargers, including one solar-powered option.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

A two-pack of chargers
Each of these compact and slim devices holds multiple charges for iPhones, Galaxy phones, Pixel phones and more. They each have two USB output ports and feature a grippy design that makes them easy to hold. These chargers have 4.6 out of 5 stars and 56,018 five-star ratings on Amazon.

Promising review: "I bought this 2 pack to replace my old power bank which was struggling to fully charge my phone more than once. I wasn't expecting too much cause these costed less per unit than other power banks with the same 10000mAh capacity, but I was pleasantly surprised after using them. Both colors look sleek and I can charge my phone up to 3 times from dead or critical battery when the power banks are fully charged." — Fernando Xavier Padilla
A solar powered portable charger
This solar-powered charger is ideal for people who love going camping. Not only is it powered by the sun, but it's waterproof, shock-resistant and has an LED flashlight and a compass as well. This reliable, durable and easy-to-use charger is compatible with iPhone, Samsung, HTC, Nexus, Go-Pro cameras, tablets and other USB devices. It has 4.3 out of 5 stars and 5,883 five-star reviews.

Promising review: "We got three of these for camping. Charged them up via USB when they arrived. It's been 12 days, and we've charged our phones 5x off one of them, without having to recharge it at all, except for letting it sit out in a sunny window for a few hours each afternoon. Based on how many phone charges we got out of a single USB charge plus a little sunlight, I feel very happy with this product. They're pretty lightweight, the included carabiner makes it easy to hang from a backpack or in a window, and the included flashlight is a nice touch. I also appreciate dual USB ports, so you can charge two devices at once. My only tiny issue is that the power button for the flashlight feature is small and hard to distinguish from the rest of the colored bits on the edges of the charger. You sort of have to memorize where it is for quick access should you need a flashlight. Now that I know where the power button is, it's not an issue. Many of these solar chargers are WAY more expensive than this model. Why pay more when this one works so well? Glad I chose this brand and model. Superhappy with this purchase!" — Amazonmasterz
A high-speed charger that doubles as a flashlight
This ultra-thin power bank holds multiple charges and is compatible with a range of smartphones, tablets and other devices like AirPods, fitness trackers, smartwatches and headphones. It has 4.7 out of 5 stars and 12,351 five-star reviews on Amazon.

Promising review: "My family and I just went to Disney world for a week and this really helped all 3 of us keep our phones charges while we used them all day at the parks. I have an iPhone and my parents both have androids and it charged two phones at the same time without any issues. Also, I was able to fly with the charger which is great! I just didn’t pack it in my suitcase or use it on the plane. I like how the paw print on the front lights up blue to tell you how much of a charge you have left and I also like the book light that came with it but will probably never use it. We used the mesh bag it comes with to stack our two different charging cords then when we needed to charge we had everything we needed in the bag. If you’re on the fence, get it. It was worth it." — Kimberly
A charger with a smart LED display
This quick-charging device has insanely high charging capacity with the ability to hold more than eight charges for an iPhone 12, while the LED display screen makes it easy to know how much you've got left. It has 4.3 out of 5 stars and 8,011 five-star ratings.

Promising review: "Very handy. I bought this for my son who uses a tablet at school. He has special needs so he is unable to write. Having a low battery could derail him for the entire day. This is super easy to use and charges quickly. I'm also impressed with the size. Although it is heavier, it's actually smaller than my phone. I also appreciate that I can use it to charge my phone wirelessly." — Darling Nikki
An ultra-high capacity and super-fast phone charger
With the ability to charge two phones at once, this fast-acting charger will get you out of any pinch. It's compatible with a range of devices like an iPad, smartwatch, Airpods, Samsung Galaxy, most other smartphones, tablets and more. It can charge devices up to eight times, so you can go about your day with peace of mind. It has 4.5 out of 5 stars and 15,244 five-star ratings.

Promising review: "I dont write reviews much but, this needed to be said about this product. I have had it about a year now and goes everywhere with me. 2 weeks ago im charging my phone and bluetooth speaker while walking in the woods with my dog on our property, as i lift many 16ozer's During the day and night I dont realized that i misplaced it, until morning after a Long day of cold rain. Couldn't find it in camper so I assume i dropped in the woods. well 2 weeks later after many days of rain ice and snow, with temps between 29f and 40 f I was walking though woods again when my dog happened upon it, frozen but still able to produce 1 led light. brought in camper, warmed it up for a while and charged it up. i Can honestly say that it is charging my phone right now while righting this review. great product." — urbanmusher
A lightweight slim external charger
This wildly popular charger is incredibly slim and lightweight compared to other options and is compatible with most smartphones and devices. It has 4.6 out of 5 stars and a whopping 47,621 five-star reviews.

Promising review: "I like the solid and sleek construction. Fits easily in my pocket. Most importantly it works! Fast charging, enough capacity to charge my phone multiple times over multiple days, and withstands plenty of me dropping it and yanking the cord out awkwardly and accidentally. This is the 4th Anker charger I’ve owned. I share them with my family and use all 4." — Joe Hull
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