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How to set up emergency SOS features on a smartphone

iOS 11 has introduced a new Emergency SOS feature to contact the emergency services, but how exactly does it work?

Apple’s latest software update, iOS 11, has a host of headline-grabbing features including augmented reality, a redesigned app store and a more customisable control centre. But there’s also a less flashy feature that might be its best.

Pressing the power button five times will make your iPhone contact emergency services. As well as contacting 112, it will also disable Touch ID, but it won’t list the reason why. That way, if someone is trying to use the device without your permission, they won’t know that you’ve already activated Emergency SOS.

You can set up other emergency contacts, too, and your phone will send your location to anyone listed when you activate Emergency SOS.

If you’re using an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, or you plan on getting an iPhone X, then the way you activate Emergency SOS is different. Rather than pressing the power button five times, you instead hold the power button and either volume button. Then you’ll need to swipe the screen to contact the emergency services, unless you set up Auto Call (see below). If you’d prefer to click five times, you can activate this in Settings.

See what we thought of the Apple latest handset in our iPhone 8 first look review.

How to set up Emergency SOS


Emergency SOS is on by default, but it you want it to call the emergency services automatically without the need to swipe, there are a few extra steps to go through.

  1. Head into your Settings app and scroll down until you see Emergency SOS.
  2. Click into Emergency SOS and make sure Auto Call is toggled on.
  3. In the same menu, you can also add your Emergency Contacts.
  4. To edit these contacts, you will need to go into your Health app.

Emergency SOS on Apple Watch

WatchOS 3 added an Emergency SOS function, which you can activate on the Apple Watch app.

It works in much the same way as the iPhone equivalent, but to use it you need press and hold the side button for a few seconds several times.

At this point, if you haven’t activated Auto Call, you will need to swipe the screen.

What devices have iOS 11?

If you have any of the following devices, you can update them to iOS 11 and make use of the Emergency SOS feature.

  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 5s

Do other phones do this?

Some simple mobile phones designed for older or less-able people have dedicated SOS buttons. Pressing the button, which is typically found on the back of the handset, will contact the emergency services and any emergency contacts you have.

Samsung Galaxy phones also have an SOS feature. Pressing the power button three times will prompt the phone to take a picture with the front and rear camera, and send these to your emergency contacts. It will also send your location and a text advising that you need help.

To activate the feature, head into your Settings app and then click into Privacy and Security. From there you can turn on the Send SOS messages function.

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