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Apple shows off iPhone's upcoming Messages via Satellite feature in first look

Here's how Messages via Satellite works.

Published onJune 13, 2024

Apple iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 Pro Max 3
Aamir Siddiqui / Android Authority
  • Apple is giving some people a preview of Messages via Satellite.
  • The feature allows users to text back and forth with a satellite connection.
  • Apple says that RCS will not initially work with Messages via Satellite.

Google is currently working on adding satellite messaging support to Android phones, but it’s not the only company focused on the technology. Apple is also working on its own solution called Messages via Satellite. The Cupertino-based firm is far enough in its progress that has started holding previews.

Messages via Satellite is one of the many features set to arrive with iOS 18. It won’t be the first satellite messaging feature for the iPhone, as it already has Emergency SOS. However, Emergency SOS only allows you to get in contact with emergency services. Messages via Satellite, on the other hand, further expands upon this technology to allow the user to send and receive texts, including emoji and Tapbacks, over satellite to friends and family through Messages.

Apple invited CNET to be one of the first to try out the new feature. In a discussion with Apple’s senior director of platform product marketing Kurt Knight, Knight explains that users will get a notification when their iPhone detects it is in a dead zone. Tapping on the notification brings up all of the different satellite-enabled services available, such as Emergency SOS, Roadside Assistance, Find My, and now Messages.

Users will also be able to access Messages via Satellite within the Messages app. If you’re out of reach from terrestrial networks, you’ll be greeted by a card that pops up at the top of the screen when you open the app. All you have to do is tap “Connect to Satellite” and Messages will work just like normal. It’s important to note that conversations are still end-to-end encrypted when using the satellite service.

Knight says that the feature supports SMS, but RCS is not at the moment. According to Knight, this is because RCS is not optimized to be small enough to work with the service.

While the feature will allow you to text freely in dead zones, it’s not without its limitations. The service is designed in a way that will allow you to send a message to anyone, your friends and emergency contacts can freely message you as well. However, with other contacts, you’ll need to send an SMS message first, which will allow those other contacts to message back for a period of time.

Message via Satellite will be available for iPhone 14 and later and will come to the US first. Currently, the feature is free, but it was indicated that Apple could start charging for the service in the future.

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