The announcement of Apple’s iPhone 14 last week made waves in several markets, including the outdoor industry. Among other features aimed at capitalizing on a growing outdoor market, the introduction of a satellite-based SOS feature brings the iPhone into the ring with Garmin for the first time, pitting outdoor star Apple as a potential competitor.
How Apple’s Satellite SOS Feature Works.
Details on Apple’s new SOS satellite service are still leaking out, but we do know that the company will release the SOS feature via an iOS 16 software update for the iPhone 14 in November. Apple says the SOS service will be free for owners for two years after purchase, but requires a subscription to the service after that.
All Garmin satellite communicators are subscription based upon purchase.
Apple will use its own internal emergency center and an initial questionnaire with pre-programmed tabs to understand the nature of the emergency, Apple said. Users can then be prompted to answer additional questions via text.
Emergency messages are sent in encrypted form and are decrypted by Apple to be forwarded to the appropriate emergency services.
To initiate an SOS response, Apple users need to tap the “Emergency Text Via Satellite” button on their screen and then tap the “Report Emergency” button. Using tabs, the user answers questions to best describe their situation. Once connected to a satellite, Apple’s emergency responders receive this information, along with the user’s pre-registered medical information, emergency contact information, location, and remaining battery life. At launch, the service will support American English, American Spanish, and Canadian French, and Apple’s Emergency SOS satellite service will only be available in the US (including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, but not Guam and American Samoa) and Canada.
In contrast, Garmin devices require pressing a protected SOS button that initiates contact with an IERCC employee.
The IERCC immediately receives the device location. International travelers visiting the US and Canada can take advantage of the iPhone’s new feature unless they bought their phone in mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao, Apple said.
Garmin’s Final Word
While the usability and operation of Apple’s satellite SOS service has yet to be tested in a real-world emergency, Noble said Garmin has several advantages over Apple’s product.
According to Noble, Garmin has a professionally trained 24-7 response coordination center that goes beyond ensuring an SOS is relayed to emergency operators from anywhere in the world. Coordinators will delegate to the appropriate local authorities, communicate with your emergency contacts and update you on progress until the incident is resolved.
InReach devices do not require the device to be constantly pointed at a passing satellite to send messages or declare an SOS. InReach is also known for its two-way global messaging, which allows users to send custom messages to friends and family. This ability is important to avoid escalating emergencies.
While the iPhone 14 is highly anticipated by consumers for these and other features, Garmin says it’s not sweating it.
Of course, the recent announcements will raise awareness of the importance of staying connected even when off the grid, and we’re confident that the Garmin inReach will continue to be the satellite communicator of choice for outdoor customers who want quiet, first-rate Connectivity and search Reliable emergency services in a rugged, handheld device that stays charged for weeks, Noble said.
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