What Does SOS Mean On iPhone?

Mark Harwood
4 min readMar 26, 2024

Hopefully you never need to use this feature, but it’s useful to know as a ‘just in case’! I’ve you’ve ever wondered ‘What Does SOS Mean On iPhone’? then this is the post for you…

Before we get started, I’ve also written this post on my website in case you prefer reading over there!


So, you’re using your iPhone as usual when all a sudden you get an SOS popup. Not only does this annoying distraction stop you from endlessly scrolling on TikTok before the US nukes it, it could mean that you are blocked from communicating with friends or family.

To clarify, we are talking about the ‘SOS Only’ icon that appears in the status bar when you are without a mobile signal. I’ll include an image of what this looks like below:

So now that you know which SOS message I’m referring to, I’m sure you’re wondering ‘What Does SOS Only mean on iPhone’? Lets jump in!

What Does SOS Mean On iPhone?

As mentioned above in the introduction, this will appear once your phone is without a mobile or cellular connection. It indicates that you can only perform SOS functions, such as calls or texts to the emergency services.

It’s worth noting that whilst things might be bad now, it can still get worse. If you move even further away from civilisation, this message will be replaced with ‘No Service’ which means you can’t even make contact to the emergency services. But that’s fairly rare unless you live somewhere really remote.

Potential Causes

I’ve mentioned the main reason above: remote locations. If you’re too far away from a mobile/cellular tower, then your iPhone won’t be able to communicate to the outside world.

Another cause that has occurred in the past, although is fairly rare, is an issue with the mobile service provider. You might remember the outage that plagued AT&T in February of 2024, which left millions of users without full service.

It’s worth knowing the potential causes as they do help you limit the actual cause down and perform a suitable fix. There’s no point calling and complaining to your mobile service provider if the reason for ‘SOS Only’ service is that…



Mark Harwood

IT Pro 👨‍💻 Dad 👀 Husband🔒 Check out my free blog or utilise my expertise on the web! https://mharwood.uk