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What does SOS mode on iPhone mean? Symbol appears during AT&T outage Thursday

Thousands of customers woke up Thursday morning to an SOS symbol at the top of their iPhones and no service due to a nationwide telecommunications outage.

The outages were impacting AT&T customers the most, although services from Verizon, Cricket Wireless and T-Mobile were also affected. It also began to impact essential public services, including people’s ability to call emergency responders.

The outages have continued through Thursday morning, with more than 70,000 AT&T customers reporting outages as of 8:56 a.m. ET, according to Downdetector.com.

What does the SOS symbol mean, and how does it connect to the outage? Here's what to know.

AT&T down: Tens of thousands report AT&T service outage; Verizon and T-Mobile users also claim issues

What does the SOS symbol on the iPhone mean?

During Thursday's outage, an SOS symbol appeared on the screens of iPhone users with AT&T (in the same place where cell service bars are normally shown).

The SOS symbol can appear in the status bar of iPhones and iPads, meaning devices aren't connected to a cellular network. It also means there is a cellular network "available for emergency calls," Apple's support website states.

The SOS feature is available on iPhones and iPads in the U.S., Australia and Canada.

"When you make a call with SOS, your iPhone automatically calls the local emergency number and shares your location information with emergency services," according to Apple. "In some countries and regions, you might need to choose the service that you need.

After making an emergency call, your iPhone alerts any emergency contacts designated in your phone.

Apple says all iPhone models 14 or later can also use Emergency SOS via satellite to text emergency services when no cellular and Wi-Fi coverage is available.

Contributing: Gabe Hauari and Christopher Cann, USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: SOS symbol appears on iPhones during AT&T outage: What is it?