iOS 18 will let you video call 911 — what that means for you

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Apple’s been pushing a lot of emergency features over the past couple of years, including Emergency SOS via satellite for the (hopefully rare) times users might need help and cell signal is either spotty or non-existent. Now the company is adding video calls to its standard emergency calling feature.

To make it clear, this doesn’t appear to be a satellite-based feature. Instead it’s part of the existing emergency SOS feature, which calls 911 or whichever local number puts you through to emergency responders. According to Apple’s press release this allowed users to “share context through streaming video and recorded media.

The idea being that dispatchers can request a video link or media from your camera roll to get a better understanding of what’s going on and what kind of help you need. All of this is shared through a secure connection, with Apple claiming that makes it “easier and faster to get help”. 

There are a bunch of ways this could prove invaluable in an emergency. For instance someone may call not knowing where they are exactly, but a dispatcher could narrow the location down based on their surroundings. Likewise anyone who’s unable to properly explain what the problem is, like if they’re a young child, can show dispatchers what’s going on.

Getting a better understanding of the situation also means that dispatchers know exactly what sort of response may be needed. It doesn’t matter whether the caller overstates or downplays the situation, being able to physically see what the emergency is can ensure a more appropriate response from first responders.

Apple hasn’t revealed how this feature will work exactly, but we can only assume that there will be buttons on screen that let you start a video call or share photos and video during the call. 

Of course this is just one of the many upgrades coming as part of iOS 18 later this year. Apple has promised satellite text messaging will be available, even in non-emergency situations, alongside a bunch of new customization options and the ability to lock or hide apps — just to name a few. 

The biggest change, however, is the launch of Apple Intelligence. While limited to just two iPhones (for now), this AI system should overhaul what your phone can actually do. This includes brand new upgrades to Siri, image generation, ChatGPT support and more.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.