apple watch ultra
The Apple Watch Ultra; (photo/Apple)

iPhone 14, Apple Watch Get Robust Outdoor Treatment: Off-Grid Comms, ‘Action’ Mode & More

iPhone 14 launched this afternoon as anticipated — so did Apple Watch Series 8, SE, and Ultra. And they add things like satellite communication and video stabilization for anyone who likes to play outside.

Apple iPhone 14 and the larger 14 Plus launched at a live event today, and landed along with big news for the outdoors: a satellite-communication capability that Apple calls “Emergency SOS.”

In a nutshell, the tool will help people communicate with emergency services when their cell service isn’t working and they’re out of range of Wi-Fi. The utility takes one aggressive step toward Garmin inReach, and Apple said it spent years to make it a reality.

Apple Watch Series 8, SE, and Ultra can use the capability, too, as long as the user’s got their iPhone 14 close at hand. Here’s how it works.


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Apple iPhone 14, Watch ‘Emergency SOS’ Details

First, the device helps locate a satellite within range and then helps the user point their phone at it. Then, the user can send and receive information to get emergency help.

Once you’re connected, the device automatically sends your location, Medical ID (if set up in the device), and battery level to a dispatcher who then opens communication.

apple iphone 14 sat-comm

The tool doesn’t quite bury inReach, because you can only use it to send an SMS message to an emergency service provider — not to another device. However, satellite geolocating capability does let you share your location with friends and family, so they can track where you are at all times.

Notably, Emergency SOS won’t cost iPhone 14 users a dime for the first 2 years, which should help it compete with the likes of Garmin and SPOT (which are both subscription-based services).

Regardless, the upshot is that millions of new users will now receive free access to sat-coordinated EMS. One possible result is that search-and-rescue crews will get that much busier. On the other hand, it could make the backcountry safer.

One thing’s for sure: Apple just changed the rescue communications game. Check out the new lineup or watch the release event at the Apple website.

Apple ‘Action Mode’ for iPhone Camera

Apple also appears to be muscling its way into the action camera market with “Action” mode. This feature enables the iPhone’s more robust 48-megapixel camera to stabilize during high activity — similar to a GoPro.

There’s also improved durability imparted to the iPhone 14 thanks to a “Ceramic Shield” coating that Apple touts as stronger than the traditional gorilla glass.

Apple Watch

Apple’s timepiece also receives the “Action” treatment. On the Apple Watch Ultra, a new customizable “Action” button will quickly control workout functions, set a compass waypoint, or begin a dive.

Speaking of diving, the Apple Watch Ultra has a 49mm titanium case, 100m water resistance, and IPX6 dust-proof rating.

Apple also retooled its compass design for greater accuracy, along with improved dual-frequency GPS location-tracking.

See Apple iPhone 14 & Apple Watch Ultra Up Close

Sam Anderson

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.