Why Apples AU And NZ SOS Feature Shows How Important Geography Is to Technology

Apple is famous for innovation and leading the pack regarding tech advances. The brand has consistently been at the forefront of hardware and software advances. The iPhone changed everything in the mobile world, while iPads made us rethink how to access and use tech in our homes. While the Apple Watch was not the first smartwatch, it was the most eagerly anticipated and the one that made it cool to have a computer on your wrist.


They were the first company to bring colour to tech in 1998 with their iconic iMac G3 available in candy colours like tangerine, lime, strawberry and blueberry. While the colours faded from the iMac range for over a decade, they reintroduced them with a rainbow-inspired range in 2021. Meanwhile, the Apple iPhone has been available in a selection of colours for quite some time, and the company has consistently created red phones and smart devices, raising money for HIV / AIDS organisations.


One of Apple’s strengths is that it is not only about hardware. It is a vertically integrated company and offers users full access to all its innovative software and cloud-based programs. Apple has extended their services into every aspect of online life. People who are brand advocates have always enjoyed the enhanced security of the systems driving Apple. This is where geography can come into the equation. Apple accounts are location specific, and if a user sets up a new device using their Apple ID, they will get an alert with the location of the new device and need to confirm they are in that location. 


As long as a particular service is available in the country in which you are located, anyone can access Apple’s services through the cloud and a secure network. Apple launches different features to a service like ApplePay in different countries at different times. Many of the services are tested in the Australian and New Zealand markets before they are rolled out in the USA so that bugs and glitches can be ironed out in a relatively contained market. For example, Apple Pay online casinos have become more and more commonplace over the past few years. This means anyone can play at the pokies or other casino games using this secure payment method and pay in NZ$ because the tech can locate the player.


However, Apple’s technology is not just for fun. Some of the new software advances can help save your life. The company made its SOS emergency satellite communication features available in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year. Apple said that iPhone 14 users could contact emergency services even if they have no cellular or WiFi connectivity. The feature also allows them to share their location with family and friends when they are in remote places.


The service was initially available to users in the USA and Canada; then, they expanded to twelve new companies, including France, Germany, Ireland and UK. New Zealand and Australia are the latest countries to benefit from this technology. 


The emergency feature works through satellite communication and is activated by rapidly tapping the power button. The user has to tap it five times or hold the power and volume buttons together. Alternatively, the user can dial 111 in New Zealand or 000 in Australia. If the user is in a country and does not know the emergency number, 112 is the international number and works in most locations. Without cellular or WiFi coverage, the call is connected to an emergency calling relay centre for a two-way conversation and a quick onscreen questionnaire. Details of the location and the emergency are then forwarded to dispatchers together with emergency health information.


The inbuilt system guides the user to point their iPhone towards the satellite so that the message can be sent. Apple said satellite communications have low bandwidth, and to get around any potential speed issues, the messages are compressed by a third. Off-the-grid users can inform their families about their location using the Find My app even when not connected to the network. They can do this by opening the “Me” tab and selecting the “Send My Location via Satellite” section.


Australia’s Minister of Communication, Michelle Rowland, welcomed the development saying, 

“Australians know full well the importance of remaining connected in regional, rural, and remote areas, particularly when they need emergency services. The ability to contact Triple Zero with Emergency SOS via satellite when there is no mobile coverage is a strong backup to keep Australians connected in an emergency.” 

In New Zealand, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) have had experience with the iPhone 14’s other new safety feature, crash detection. Sensors automatically text emergency services with a location when a handset detects the user has been in a crash. While there have been false alarms, FENZ reported that it helped save lives when a tractor was in a collision with a ute on an isolated stretch of road near Ranigora. The new Emergency SOS feature kicked in even though the user was out of cellular network range.

As seems to be so often the case, Apple leads the way with the SOS satellite communication feature. The competition like Samsung, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi say they will roll this feature out on their devices soon.

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