Apple unveils a preview of its upcoming Messages via satellite feature

Credits: Apple

This fall, iPhones will gain the ability to send text messages via satellite. At Monday’s annual WWDC keynote, Apple previewed upcoming features in its next operating system releases.

During the two-hour event, Apple highlighted what’s coming in iOS 18, including the new Messages via satellite feature. This will enable users to send iMessage and SMS texts without Wi-Fi or cellular service.

CNET met with Apple’s senior director of platform marketing, Kurt Knight, to learn more about the feature.

Knight suggests that the feature will be particularly useful for staying in touch with friends and family when in areas with weak service, such as during a hike.

These messages don’t have to be emergency-related. Users can text about their day just like any other conversation.

Knight demonstrates that when your iPhone detects no cellular or Wi-Fi service, it will send a lock-screen alert prompting you to connect to a satellite to check for and send messages.

iOS 18 will then show which services are available in satellite mode, including sending and receiving Messages, updating your Find My location, requesting Roadside Assistance, and contacting emergency services.

Once you select Messages via satellite, the iPhone will guide you to position correctly. Once aligned, it works like any other Messages conversation. If the satellite moves, your iPhone will prompt you to realign to maintain the connection.

Credits: CNET

Interestingly, the rules for iMessage and SMS differ. You can freely send and receive iMessages, but SMS conversations must be initiated first.

Apple explains this restriction is to prevent congestion from the numerous automated promotional messages sent via SMS.

RCS messages, though supported in iOS 18, won’t work with Messages via satellite because the RCS protocol isn’t optimized for satellite transmission.

Similar to Emergency SOS via satellite, Messages via satellite will be available only on the iPhone 14 and later. Knight notes that the service will initially launch in the U.S. and expand to other countries over time.

CNET mentions that the feature is free for now, but Apple plans to eventually charge for the service.