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Will Apple charge iPhone users for sending SMS via satellite?

Apple has added satellite capabilities to the iPhone 14 models in 2022 to enable a new feature called Emergency SOS via Satellite, which lets users contact emergency services in areas with no cellular service. At the time, the company said that customers could try the service for free for two years – but the trial period was later extended to 2025.

Now with iOS 18, iPhone users can even send SMS via satellite. But will Apple keep this service free forever?

Emergency SOS via Satellite

Emergency SOS via Satellite has been described as a “game changer” by search and rescue teams, and has been credited with a number of helicopter rescues. The feature has already proven to save lives since its launch, and it continues to do so.

When a user triggers Emergency SOS, iPhone asks a few questions about the situation until it connects with the satellites – as this can take a few minutes. Then, all this information is sent to relay centers where specialists call for help on behalf of the user. The entire transcript can also be shared with the user’s emergency contacts.

Last year, the company expanded the iPhone’s satellite capabilities with the new Roadside Assistance feature, which lets users contact roadside assistance providers like AAA and Verizon in the US via satellite when cellular connectivity is unavailable. It also announced that those who bought an iPhone 14 will get an extra free year of satellite connectivity.

Since these features have already proven to be “life savers,” many people have discussed whether Apple will indeed charge for them as it first said – since doing so could hurt the company’s image if users had the chance to be rescued but were unable to because they didn’t pay for Emergency SOS via Satellite.

Apple satellite features | iPhone | Galaxy

Will Apple ever charge for its satellite features?

However, iOS 18 might change everything. That’s because the new version of iPhone’s operating system introduces the ability to send SMS to anyone using satellite connectivity when there’s no Wi-Fi or cellular available. The feature doesn’t seem to be working in beta 1, and Apple hasn’t said a word about pricing yet.

The thing is, satellite connectivity services are expensive. Apple invested $450 million in infrastructure to support Emergency SOS via Satellite. Globalstar, Apple’s partner in satellite connectivity, charges around $12 a month to offer basic emergency services on its own devices. The subscription gets more expensive for those who want to send unlimited text messages.

With that in mind, I see two possibilities: Apple could charge a subscription for all satellite-based features as originally planned, or it could charge specifically to let iPhone users send SMS via satellite – which would be a middle ground between getting money to pay for infrastructure and not acting like a bad guy by limiting vital features.

In an ideal world, all these features would be free forever, but Apple is also a service company. For instance, it could offer the iPhone satellite features as part of the Apple One bundle, which could end up motivating more people to pay for all Apple services at once.

How much would you be willing to pay to use the satellite features on your iPhone? Let us know in the comments below.

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