The Secret iPhone Feature That Could Save Your Life

Hopefully, you'll never have to use it.

iPhone features are constantly updating, sometimes so frequently that it’s hard to keep up with them. But there is one function that not many people know about that could actually save your life if you’re ever in a scary situation.

That feature is the Emergency SOS function, which is meant to help you out if you’re in a situation where it might be unsafe to pull out your phone to make a 911 call. It serves two purposes: first as a proverbial flare gun, sending an instant message to local authorities if you’re in a dangerous situation. The second purpose is to lock your TouchID so that potential assailants can’t literally force your hand it opening your phone. Hopefully, of course, you’ll never need to use it; know this simple trick to help you avoid being a target of theft.

Here’s how the feature works. On an iPhone 8 or later press and hold the side lock button and one of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears. Drag the Emergency SOS slider to call emergency services. If you’re unable to slide the icon over, continue to hold the lock button and the volume button and a countdown will begin with alert sounds. If you continue holding until the countdown ends, emergency services will automatically be called. On the iPhone 7 and any earlier iPhones, all you need to do is discreetly tap the Lock button (on the right side of the phone) five times. A slider reading “Emergency SOS” will pop up on the screen. Slide it, and it’ll trigger your phone to call 911.

iphone sos settingsvia iPhone (2)
Emergency SOS Settings screens on an iPhone 8 or newer (left) and an iPhone 7 or earlier

The setup process is pretty straightforward: go to your iPhone’s settings icon, and then trace down to “Emergency SOS.” Once you’re in the Emergency SOS section, it will provide you with options for how you want to use the function. If you want to be able to quickly and automatically contact 911, switch on the AutoCall function. When the Emergency SOS is toggled, it will blare out three very loud alarms, counting down the three seconds before the 911 is dialed. You can also turn on the Countdown Sound on the Emergency SOS function, which helps keep users from accidentally activating the function. Learn about these other hidden iPhone features you never knew about.

There’s also a section to fill in emergency contact information. This can come in handy if you’re in an accident and the hospital needs to give or take pertinent information to your friends or family. If you fill in emergency contacts, after the emergency call ends, your phone will automatically alert your emergency contacts with a text message. To add emergency contacts open the Health app and tap your profile picture. Tap Medical ID and scroll down to where it says Emergency Contacts. Click Add and you can choose people from your contacts list. Then click Done to save your changes. 

And as far as the TouchID shutoff feature goes, it will be automatically activated when you slide the Emergency SOS function into gear. Even if you cancel the 911 call before it completes, your phone will only be able to be opened via passcode.

Although ideally, you won’t ever have to use it, these are trying times, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Next, learn about another potentially life-saving iPhone feature.