Apple Adds Satellite Messaging for iOS 18

iOS 18

Off-grid communication for remote travelers has taken a big step forward with a significant announcement from Apple at the 2024 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). When iOS 18 for iPhones launches to the general public in September of this year, it will include seamlessly integrated satellite messaging in the iMessage app.

Reportedly, both iMessage and SMS will be supported (and, possibly RCS). With this new technology, off-grid users will be able to send and receive texts, emojis, and Tapbacks even when they lack a Wi-Fi or cellular data internet connection. The new feature will be available on iPhone 14 and newer phones running iOS 18. Additionally, users will be able to schedule future texts in iMessage—a feature long-desired by iPhone users for years.

The first limited-release beta for iOS 18 will be available on June 10, following Apple’s keynote at WWDC. Apple is predicted to release a public beta in July 2024 and then share the operating system with general users in September. The iPhone 14 was the first Apple phone to include satellite antenna hardware, but its usability was limited only to SOS emergency messaging. Adding full two-way messaging via the stars was the next logical step, and as the technology advances, we can imagine that voice communication won’t be too far behind. Thuraya’s Skyphone already offers smartphone satellite telephony, but high costs, bespoke devices, and a possibly limited satellite network will curtail its appeal.

Have we reached the cusp of truly democratized global 24-7 communications? With more and more satellites launched into orbit every year, it seems like it, and it will definitely be a game-changer for overlanders. What this means for stand-alone satellite communication devices like those from Garmin or SPOT remains to be seen, not to mention how well Apple’s orbital messaging system will actually work. Will full satellite internet connectivity beaming directly to your smartphone be next? If it is, I, for one, will probably switch it off.

Watch more: Best Remote Communications for Overlanders :: Video

Image: Apple

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Stephan Edwards is the Associate Editor of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal. He and his wife, Julie, once bought an old Land Rover sight unseen from strangers on the internet in a country they'd never been to and drove it through half of Africa. After living in Botswana for two years, Stephan now makes camp at the foot of a round mountain in Missoula, Montana. He still drives that Land Rover every day. An anthropologist in his former life and a lover of all things automotive, Stephan is a staunch advocate for public lands and his writing and photography have appeared in Road & Track, Overland Journal, and Adventure Journal. Contact him at and @venturesomeoverland on Instagram.