Apple iOS 18 Will Allow Satellite Texting for U.S. Users

Apple revealed enticing news for backcountry travelers at its annual Developers Conference this week: off-grid messaging in the upcoming iOS 18 release. This feature will let U.S. users with an iPhone 14 or later send and receive texts via iMessage and SMS without cell service or WiFi.

Apple’s existing Emergency SOS via satellite feature already enables users of newer iPhones to message emergency services and share their location without WiFi or a cellular connection.

This new satellite texting feature will allow messages to be sent directly through the Messages app with iMessage features like emojis and end-to-end encryption. Texts to non-iPhone users will also go by satellite, via SMS.

Apple pioneered satellite connectivity in mainstream smartphones with the launch of the iPhone 14. Apple’s development of specialized components, software, and algorithms has enabled iPhone 14 antennas to establish connections with satellites.

iPhone 15 Pro shows a text conversation in iMessage with a satellite image and the phrase “Keep Pointing at Satellite… Connected” in the Dynamic Island.

Photo: Apple


To enable satellite messaging, Apple relies on the Globalstar satellite network, which is a low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation of 24 satellites. Globalstar covers most of the planet, except the far north and south and parts of Asia and Africa.

This new Apple capability seems unlikely to cover those gap areas soon. However, SpaceX is due to replenish the Globalstar constellation in 2025, with Apple’s backing, so this may change in the future.


Globalstar’s coverage map for the SPOT messaging device. Note the gaps over most of India and northern Russia. Photo:


What of InReach?

At present, off-grid adventurers have to rely on bespoke satellite messaging devices like the Garmin InReach Mini or the Motorola Defy. This new functionality from Apple would reduce the need for an additional device.

Like Apple’s existing SOS functionality, satellite texting requires being in open areas with an unobstructed view of the sky. Natural barriers like trees and canyons can impede coverage.

iPhone 15 Pro shows a list of hikes in Sequoia National Park.

Photo: Apple


In addition to messaging, iOS 18 proposes to enrich Apple Maps by adding numerous hiking trails across America’s national parks. Users will be able to filter trails by length and elevation, personalize routes, access trails offline, and manage them within a new “Places Library.”

Ahead of the official iOS 18 launch, a public beta will be accessible next month via the Apple Beta Software Program. Apple suggested future charges for satellite messaging services, yet specific pricing details remain under wraps. iPhone 14 and 15 users currently enjoy two free years of Emergency SOS via satellite.

There are no details on when or if Apple will expand this new feature beyond the United States.

Ash Routen

Ash Routen is a writer for ExplorersWeb. He has been writing about Arctic travel, mountaineering, science, camping, hiking, and outdoor gear for 7 years. As well as ExplorersWeb, he has written for Gear JunkieRed Bull, Outside, The Guardian, and many other outlets. Based in Leicester, UK, Routen is an avid backpacker and arctic traveler who writes about the outdoors around a full-time job as an academic.