Forum Index > Trail Talk > Deep dive - iPhone 14 call for help via satellite
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Joey
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 10:36 am 
zimmertr
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 10:40 am 
Yay! Excited for the future of this technology. Hopefully in a couple generations of smart phones we have feature parity with InReach

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joker
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 11:54 am 
This is a good but classic "software tech features review" - what I mean by that is that they look at some of the obvious tech capabilities such as coverage map and time to connect and details of the connection process. BUT they don't look at what I see as the elephant in the room for anyone wanting to carry such a device for potential emergency use on trips into the back of beyond - the reliability of the device's hardware interface. With the phone, you are relying on that touchscreen as far as I can see from reviews. Have you ever tried to use your phone's touchscreen when it's pouring rain or wet snow? Perhaps they also will activate this satellite SOS if you hold the hardware buttons on the side of the phone to trigger an emergency call as you can now do, but will route to satellite if there's no cell service available, but that is still depending on physical buttons that as far as I've seen are not nearly as robust to hard use as the buttons on an InReach are. The phone is also just generally more apt to be horked beyond being usable by physical damage and also water intrusion. And if you're using the phone for other things like taking photos, the battery life is also more likely to be an issue. On a very related note, I have skied with some IFMGA/ACMG/AMGA certified guides who are now using their cell phones as their first resort navigation device via an app like Gaia or whatever is similar for the country they're in, BUT they all also keep a dedicated GPS device in the bottom of their packs, with any key waypoints for the planned tour entered, as they do not trust the phone to not crap out when they most need the GPS help. I recall a guided group that got stuck out in a storm overnight where a few clients died in which the guide only had a phone for navigation and the phone became unusable (I'm forgetting if the battery died or it was another problem) - if they'd had a dedicated GPS like the guides i've skied with, they may have managed to get their group down to a nice warm mountain hut as planned for that night. From what I can see, this will put a potentially lifesaving emergency call tool into the hands of a lot more people - people who would likely never buy a dedicated device like an InReach or other PLB type devices. That will hopefully on net be a positive thing (time will tell the extent to which this creates "moral hazard" with folks taking on additional risk or calling for help when they otherwise likely would have been able to self rescue), and that's fine and good. But I will not be tossing my InReach any time soon due to this new phone capability.

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Cyclopath
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 12:09 pm 
joker wrote:
This is a good but classic "software tech features review" - what I mean by that is that they look at some of the obvious tech capabilities such as coverage map and time to connect and details of the connection process. BUT they don't look at what I see as the elephant in the room for anyone wanting to carry such a device for potential emergency use on trips into the back of beyond - the reliability of the device's hardware interface. With the phone, you are relying on that touchscreen as far as I can see from reviews.
This is probably the right approach. Most Americans are very familiar with using a smart phone now.
joker wrote:
Have you ever tried to use your phone's touchscreen when it's pouring rain or wet snow?
You need to wipe the screen with something dry and absorbent, like a base layer, then unzip your jacket and use it like an umbrella to shield your phone. Literally nothing is perfect. InReach and SPOT can fail too. Phones are overall an excellent option because they're ubiquitous and easy to use.

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Olympic Hiker
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 12:17 pm 
Yesterday I visited a spot that didnít have cell service and saw that my iPhone 14 displayed SOS where cell signal strength/LTE or 5G is located on the screen. I didnít need to use it, but was glad that it was available if I needed to use it. edit: later in the day I looked on Apples website to see how it works. Apparently you are to use the phone app to dial 911. The phone will then figure out you donít have cell service and will open a special texting function that connects your phone to a satellite and then tells you when to start texting your message. Your phone will also automatically send GPS location, your elevation, along with other data for SAR purposes to 911.

If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. - Lincoln

zimmertr
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philfort
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 12:19 pm 
Can't wait to test this next time I'm out of cell range.

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Randito
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 3:18 pm 
It will be interesting to see how actual field experience turns out. The antenna performance of a smartphone format vs that of device like an InReach whose antenna is optimized just for satellite communications could make a difference in how reliable and responsive the device is. I'll be keeping my InReach for the time being.

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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 4:27 pm 
Cyclopath wrote:
ou need to wipe the screen with something dry and absorbent, like a base layer, then unzip your jacket and use it like an umbrella to shield your phone. Literally nothing is perfect. InReach and SPOT can fail too. Phones are overall an excellent option because they're ubiquitous and easy to use.
All true, BUT if it's really storming and I'm in an emergency, I'll happily take the simple single physical SOS button on my dedicated device over my phone screen. If it's humid enough, then wiping the screen with a base layer is often not sufficient for me btw - at that point I could resort to ziplocked paper towels or such but I might not want to open my jacket and try to see what's going on on the screen way tucked in there away from the blowing wet snow. And I trust that my InReach will have less chance of failing. Phones are ubiquitous so as I noted they'll fill in a gap with folks who wouldn't buy a dedicated device in any case.

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hbb
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 5:09 pm 
joker wrote:
BUT they don't look at what I see as the elephant in the room for anyone wanting to carry such a device for potential emergency use on trips into the back of beyond - the reliability of the device's hardware interface. With the phone, you are relying on that touchscreen as far as I can see from reviews. Have you ever tried to use your phone's touchscreen when it's pouring rain or wet snow? Perhaps they also will activate this satellite SOS if you hold the hardware buttons on the side of the phone to trigger an emergency call as you can now do,
There are billions of of touchscreen cellphones in circulation. I can't recall any reports of widespread issues making 911 calls on touchscreen cellphones in wet conditions. Visit downtown Seattle on a rainy day: you'll see hundreds of people walking around outdoors successfully operating touchscreen devices to text, make calls, screw around on social media, etc. It's not complicated. Also, for what it's worth, pressing the hardware buttons on an iPhone merely brings up a slider on the touchscreen to initiate an emergency call. That feature doesn't really do anything to mitigate wet conditions.

zimmertr
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Tom
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 5:44 pm 
Touch screen not an issue IMO. I'd be more concerned about whether SOS service is reliable. Is it worth saving $15 / month vs. a proven device? Maybe if you don't already have an inreach. FWIW I get more than $15 / month value out of my inreach letting my wife know all is well so no way I'd drink Apple's kool aid just for backup SOS that may work. If you already have an inreach and considering a new phone you might be better off buying an equivalent Android for half the price and use the savings to pay for 3+ years of inreach service.

MistyMountainHop, zimmertr
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fourteen410
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 6:38 pm 
Yay for iPhones, but are android users SOL?

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Tom
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PostTue Nov 15, 2022 6:46 pm 
I wouldn't be surprised if the tech came to competitor phones eventually. It will certainly be of value to those would otherwise go without SOS service and find themselves in a predicament without cell coverage.

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PostWed Nov 16, 2022 10:36 am 
Well, if you are happy with the ruggedness of your phone, party on. For true emergency use I'd prefer relying on a more ruggedized device than any of the smartphones I've had to date.

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neek
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PostWed Nov 16, 2022 10:46 am 
joker wrote:
Well, if you are happy with the ruggedness of your phone, party on. For true emergency use I'd prefer relying on a more ruggedized device than any of the smartphones I've had to date.
Yeah, when you really need it, that phone is likely to be smashed, to have flown out of your pocket, or just have a dead battery. However, maybe it's a good time for the cost-conscious to trade in their inReach for a PLB. Use the phone for non-critical communication, but you still have a durable oh-s**t button, without an extra subscription. Phones will always be brittle; it's one of their features.

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Cyclopath
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PostWed Nov 16, 2022 11:06 am 
neek wrote:
Yeah, when you really need it, that phone is likely to be smashed, to have flown out of your pocket, or just have a dead battery. However, maybe it's a good time for the cost-conscious to trade in their inReach for a PLB. Use the phone for non-critical communication, but you still have a durable oh-s**t button, without an extra subscription. Phones will always be brittle; it's one of their features.
People, especially hikers, have learned how to keep phones running. They're really not as brittle as people are making out here, but things like cases, zippered pockets, and battery packs are really helpful. I mean, hikers have been carrying paper maps around for generations without falling victim to spontaneous combustion and origami gangs.

philfort, zimmertr  SpookyKite89, joker
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