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Apple’s iPhone 14 May Have Just Killed Garmin and Zoleo Emergency Beacons

I should've waited to get the 14.

Apple, I just have to ask: What the hell? I just bought an iPhone 13 a few months ago, and the ONE thing I desperately wanted—emergency satellite communication—just launched with the latest iPhone 14. I hate you, Apple, but also this is excellent and represents a massive boon for the off-road, backcountry, and trail-riding community. Honestly, this may have just killed companies like Garmin and Zoleo as the go-to satellite communicators.

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At today’s announcement event, Apple revealed the iPhone 14 that has newly developed proprietary hardware that allows owners to quickly sync up—seconds when in open fields, up to a few minutes when in dense foliage—with a satellite when an emergency occurs in the backcountry and cell towers are nonexistent. After syncing, the new satellite SOS function offers up a select number of prompts that Apple crafted with both users and emergency professionals to reduce the time required to relay necessary information to those specialists. You’ll then be either connected directly to those first responders or a relay center, depending on whether the nearest emergency services accept text messaging. And from there, you’ll be rescued. Dope.

What this means is off-roaders, motorcyclists, UTVers, and anyone who enjoys places like the backcountry, where cell service is limited, now have complete access to emergency services right from their phone.

Apple stated, “Since every second counts, with Emergency SOS via satellite, iPhone front-loads a few vital questions to assess the user’s situation, and shows them where to point their phone to connect to a satellite. The initial questionnaire and follow-up messages are then relayed to centers staffed by Apple‑trained specialists who can call for help on the user’s behalf. This breakthrough technology also allows users to manually share their location over satellite with Find My when there is no cellular or Wi-Fi connection, providing a sense of security when hiking or camping off the grid. Emergency SOS via satellite will be available to users in the US and Canada in November, and the service will be free for two years.”

This also means that companies like Garmin and Zoleo, brands that make products that do just this, are now competing with the likes of Apple. Uh oh.

The introduction on the iPhone 14 means folks won’t need to have two separate very expensive items with them at all times. They could just get an iPhone 14 and head off into the woods. That potentially saves a lot of people a lot of money, as the Garmin inReach Mini starts at $349.99 ($15 a month subscription required), while the Zoleo starts at $199 ($20 a month subscription required). Only needing one device saves your bank account at least a couple hundred dollars, as well as space in your off-road kit. But whether it’s as good as the products we’ve all come to put our faith in, that’s yet to be determined. It is Apple, though.

Now, there will be a subscription at some point, and Apple hasn’t released how much that’ll cost, but you get it free for the first two years when you purchase a new iPhone 14. Pre-order starts September 9th and Apple says the iPhone 14 will start at $799.

But what do you all think? Are you going to get rid of your current iPhone, Garmin, or Zoleo products and upgrade to an iPhone 14 and it alone in your pocket? Or are you going to stick with your preferred satellite communicator? I know I definitely feel salty, and when it’s time to upgrade, I going to swap my phone. Damn you, Tim Apple!

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