iOS 18 Introduces Messages via Satellite for iPhone

Apple continues to enhance its suite of satellite connectivity features for iPhone with iOS 18, bringing a significant new addition: Messages via satellite. This innovative feature allows users to send and receive iMessages and SMS texts, including emoji and Tapbacks, even when they are out of range of cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

Messages via Satellite


  • Feature Introduction: Messages via satellite enables iPhone users to stay connected by sending and receiving messages through satellites when terrestrial networks are unavailable.
  • Availability: Initially launching in the United States with iOS 18, this feature will later expand to other countries. It is available on iPhone 14 and later models.

How It Works

  1. Detection and Access:
    • When the iPhone detects it is out of range of cellular and Wi-Fi networks, a pop-up alert offers quick access to all available satellite-enabled services, including Emergency SOS, Roadside Assistance, Find My, and Messages via satellite.
  2. Using Messages via Satellite:
    • The feature can be accessed directly from the Messages app when off the terrestrial grid. iOS will pop up a card to help you point your iPhone toward an available satellite.
    • Once connected, Messages via satellite works like a normal conversation, allowing users to send and receive messages, emoji, and Tapbacks.
    • iMessages sent via satellite are end-to-end encrypted.


  • iMessage vs. SMS:
    • iMessages can be freely sent and received via satellite.
    • SMS has limitations due to the volume of promotional and automated messages. Emergency contacts and specified family members can contact users via SMS at any time. For other contacts, users must send the first SMS message via satellite, allowing recipients to respond for a limited time.
  • RCS Support:
    • Despite RCS support coming in iOS 18 later this year, Messages via satellite will not initially work with RCS. According to Kurt Knight, Apple’s senior director of platform product marketing, the RCS protocol has not yet been optimized to a small enough size to work over a satellite connection.

Key Features

  • Messages via Satellite:
    • Send and receive iMessages and SMS texts via satellite.
    • Includes support for emoji and Tapbacks.
    • End-to-end encryption for iMessages.
  • Access and Usage:
    • Pop-up alert when out of terrestrial network range.
    • Direct access from the Messages app.
    • Guided connection to available satellites.
  • Availability and Compatibility:
    • Launching initially in the United States.
    • Expanding to other countries in the future.
    • Compatible with iPhone 14 and later models.
  • Limitations:
    • SMS limited to emergency contacts and specified family members.
    • Initial lack of RCS support.

MacReview Verdict

The introduction of Messages via satellite in iOS 18 significantly enhances connectivity for iPhone users, allowing them to stay in touch even when out of range of cellular and Wi-Fi networks. With features like end-to-end encryption for iMessages and the inclusion of emoji and Tapbacks, this service provides a robust communication solution in remote areas. While there are some limitations with SMS and initial lack of RCS support, Apple’s commitment to expanding and improving satellite services ensures that iPhone users will have reliable and secure messaging options wherever they are.

Scroll to Top