What Is SOS on iPhone and How Does It Work?

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What Is SOS on iPhone and How Does It Work?

Apple’s developers always come up with new and exciting features. The SOS feature on iPhone is a helpful function that gives us the power to send out distress alerts to emergency services and friends or family, even when we aren’t getting a signal from a cell phone tower.

If you’re an adventurer concerned about finding yourself in a sketchy situation, SOS is the feature you need. There’s a lot more to the iPhone SOS feature, which we’ll cover below, but you’ll need to set it up and understand how it works before attempting to use it in an emergency. Without further ado, let’s start learning about SOS on iPhones.

What Is SOS on iPhone?

SOS on iPhones is a feature available on all iPhone models from the iPhone 14 and up. It’s a built-in feature that sends alerts to contacts that you set up. Furthermore, SOS can use satellites to send these messages when cell phone service isn’t available.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, SOS is an international distress signal that’s been used for centuries. In the early days, SOS meant Save our Souls,” but some would argue it meant “Save our Ship, as ship captains commonly used this signal when they were having issues at sea.

Nonetheless, most people understand that SOS means I need assistance, so this Apple feature sends a distress signal to your chosen contacts. Let’s do a deeper dive into what SOS is, and how it works.

SOS on iPhone Connects Via Satellites

What SOS iPhone
You must have a clear view of the sky to connect with the satellites.


Your iPhone needs some sort of connection, whether it be Wi-Fi or cellular, to send and receive information. This includes data signals, text messages, and phone calls. However, we can’t always stay within cellular and Wi-Fi ranges.

Apple overcame the issue of not being able to send texts and make calls from offline areas by including satellite connections. If you’re in an area where your phone isn’t getting a signal, you’ll see SOS in the top right corner when a satellite connection is available.

Furthermore, you can likely get to a place where a satellite can connect to your phone much quicker than cellphone service. For example, if you’re in a valley, try to get to a clearing or elevated area to send an alert.

Automated Distress Signals

What SOS iPhone
The Severe Crash SOS option is in the Emergency SOS Settings.


SOS has an automated distress signal for crashes, as well. This is incredibly helpful if you’re in a severe wreck and you’re unable to reach your phone. If your iPhone detects a severe crash, it will automatically call emergency services.

Of course, don’t worry too much about accidental dials, a countdown will appear on your iPhone and you can cancel it before emergency services receive the alert. Furthermore, you can disable this feature in your iPhone’s settings by going to Settings>Emergency SOS>Call After Severe Crash. Enable or disable the switch as you see fit.

Sending an SOS from an iPhone

What SOS iPhone
The SOS options are located in the settings on your iPhone


There are two ways to send an SOS from an iPhone. First, you can hold the Siri button (button on the right) and the volume button (either one on the left), for a few seconds to send an SOS alert. Or, you can click the side button (right side) five times quickly to activate SOS.

However, you must choose one of these options in your iPhone’s settings. Go to Settings>Emergency SOS to see the options. Then, select the one that best suits your needs. You’ll see a countdown, and the authorities will be alerted if left to complete.

Medical Information

What SOS iPhone
The Health option in settings allows you to input important health information.


Another wonderful aspect of the SOS feature is that you can set up health information and emergency contacts. This information gives first responders a great advantage because they know things about you like your medical conditions and medications.

Go to Settings>Health to update your medical information and emergency contacts. Ensure it saves, then go back to the Emergency SOS settings. Verify that your emergency contacts appear and are correct.

Call Quietly with SOS on iPhone

What SOS on iPhone
The Call Quietly feature must be enabled in the settings.


We hope you’re safe, but if you aren’t, you can enable the Call Quietly feature. Naturally, there are many scenarios in which you need help but don’t want to alert those around you. The Call Quietly feature silences all aspects of SOS when you enable it.

Go to the Settings on your iPhone and tap Emergency SOS. Then, tap the toggle switch to the right of Call Quietly so it turns green. If you ever need to activate SOS, your phone will not alert those around you.

Where Is SOS Available on iPhone?

SOS isn’t available in all countries. Furthermore, the satellite feature isn’t available on all iPhone models. While most iPhones have an emergency call option, only some models in some countries, can actually connect to satellites and send SOS messages.

Let’s take a look at which iPhone models work, and where.

Emergency SOS Availability by iPhone Model

Not every iPhone has the SOS feature. Moreover, you’ll also need to update iOS to 16.4 or later. Here are the iPhone models equipped with SOS:

  • iPhone 14
  • iPhone 14 Pro
  • iPhone 15
  • iPhone 15 Pro

Furthermore, devices purchased in Armenia, Belarus, China (mainland), Hong Kong, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Macao, don’t come with the SOS feature at all. If the SOS feature is important to you, it’s best to purchase one from a country with those capabilities.

Emergency SOS Availability by Country

Your iPhone’s SOS feature doesn’t work everywhere. Here are the countries where you can use it:

  • U.S. and Canada (must use iOS 16.1 or higher)
  • France, Germany, the U.K., and Ireland (must use iOS 16.2 or higher)
  • Switzerland, Spain, Australia, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain (must use iOS 16.4 or later)

The SOS feature in those countries will call or text the appropriate authorities, using that country’s emergency service number.

How to Use SOS on an iPhone

As discussed previously, you can choose to activate the SOS feature by pressing the side button five times, or holding the Siri button and one of the volume buttons. Of course, you must choose one of the options in the settings.

After you choose one of those options, you can easily activate the SOS feature. However, the feature only works when you don’t have a cellular or Wi-Fi signal. Essentially, you can only use the SOS feature when you see SOS in the top right corner of your phone.

Send an SOS alert using the button combination you’ve chosen, then, tap Report Emergency. Answer the questions on the screen and your phone will send an emergency alert.

Wrapping Up

SOS on iPhone is a wonderful feature that gives us a bit of comfort when we go off the grid. It can alert the authorities, send your location, and even let your closest friends know you need help. However, it’s imperative you can get to a place where satellites can find you.

After setting the feature up, you can have peace of mind knowing you can still get help if you need it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I test SOS on my iPhone?

Absolutely! No one wants to call the authorities, so Apple included a demo to ensure everything works. Go to your iPhone’s settings and tap Emergency SOS. Scroll to the bottom and hit the Demo option. Follow the on-screen prompts and ensure it’s working.

Can I set up my emergency information without cellular service or Wi-Fi?

No. You must set up your emergency information in the Health section of the Settings before you leave the service area.

Can I use SOS if I have cellphone service?

No. SOS only activates when you don’t have cellular service or Wi-Fi. However, you can demo the feature in your iPhone Settings to ensure it will work.

Can I use SOS on an iPhone 13?

No. SOS is a relatively new feature available only on iPhone 14s and higher.

Does the Apple Watch SOS work with satellites, too?

No. The Apple Watch needs your phone to help it reach satellites. It can’t communicate with them without your iPhone nearby.

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