Apple's iPhone 14 lineup has a feature that lets users connect directly to a satellite when cellular service isn't available, and it helped save a family caught in the Maui wildfires.
According to an X post from Michael Miraflor first seen by 9to5Mac, a family of five were caught inside their vehicle with no means of escape as the Maui wildfire burned around them. At least one passenger had an iPhone 14, which allowed them to contact emergency responders.
The X post embedded below contains the text conversation that occurred after getting a signal via satellite. Expand the image — it's a long one.
My brother's girlfriend's cousin and his family were caught in their vehicle in Maui while the wildfires suddenly erupted around them.— Michael J. Miraflor (@michaelmiraflor) August 10, 2023
No cell service, so Apple Emergency SOS was the only way they could get in contact with first responders. Literally saved their lives. pic.twitter.com/PpxNwTGOAf
When activating SOS via Satellite, users are prompted to answer a few questions about the situation so it can all be sent in a bundle to responders. This reduces the time it takes emergency personnel to assess the situation since sending each message could take several minutes.
According to the text history, five people were trapped in a van near an outlet mall in Maui. It took responders about thirty minutes to arrive and rescue them.
Despite dramatic helicopter rescue footage at the iPhone 14 launch event causing some eye rolls, it seems SOS via Satellite is performing exactly as Apple advertised. The service has been slowly rolling out globally, is less accurate towards the poles, and is free for the first two years.