If you're lucky enough to have gotten your hands on a device from the iPhone 14 range, there's a brilliant new feature coming your way. Users in the USA and Canada will already have access to Emergency SOS via satellite, and it's coming to users in the UK and parts of Europe in the next few weeks.
The feature is designed to allow users to send a message to the emergency services if they find themselves in trouble outside of usual cellular range. When a call is made to the emergency services without signal, the option is given to use the service. Users can enter a few bits of information, before a radar will appear on screen directing them to point their device toward the nearest satellite.
After a few moments – from as little as 15 seconds, thanks to some changes to the compression algorithm – a message will be sent to the most appropriate emergency service to respond to you. The idea is fantastic, and a real example of how technology can enhance the lives of real people.
And it works. Apple specialist forum, MacRumours, shared details of a man in Alaska who became stranded in a remote location. Using the service, Alaska State Troopers were able to find him and get him to safety, despite him being in a location with no cellular connectivity.
Lets just be clear: that is remarkable. Ultimately, there's a high likelihood that that man may have suffered a far worse fate, but thanks to a free feature on his smartphone, he was rescued by a specialist service. This is a great example of the good that technology can do.
Sadly, not everyone agrees. The comments on the MacRumours forum following the post are a perfect example of why these kinds of innovations aren't more commonplace. "This sounds like a PR stunt to me. It’s just so preposterous," one user chimed in. "Stranded. He should have prepared going out there. Not Rely on the Phone," another said.
And honestly, I think this is indicative of why tech companies are remiss to introduce new things. If genuine live-saving features are met with such abject hostility, the companies behind it must surely think "what's the point?" It's something Apple will be accustomed to, but you can see it all over technological hubs online.
I believe that we need to adjust the discourse around the tech community, at least to a degree. I'm not calling for censorship, but if a new service that is saving lives can't be shared without mindless negativity, don't be surprised when the stream of innovative technologies starts to dry up.