Using Emergency SOS
While you’ve always been able to make emergency calls from your iPhone, even when it’s locked, Apple enhanced this in iOS 11 with a new “Emergency SOS” feature that makes the process even easier, and also integrates with new services that can automatically share your location with emergency services, and even notify important friends and family members. Further, this feature is great for world travellers who may not know the appropriate number to call when in a foreign country — contrary to a popular North American misconception, it’s not always 911.
The process for activating Emergency SOS differs slightly depending on what model of iPhone you’re using. On 2017 or later iPhone models (e.g. the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and all iPhone X-series devices):
- Press and hold the side button and either one of the volume buttons until the “Slide to Power Off” and “Emergency SOS” sliders appear.
- Drag the Emergency SOS slider to call emergency services immediately; OR
- Continue holding the side and volume buttons; a countdown will begin, after which emergency services will be automatically called unless you release the buttons before the countdown ends.
On earlier iPhone models (e.g. iPhone 7 and older), Emergency SOS is activated instead by rapidly pressing the side or top button five times.
The Emergency SOS feature is also available on the Apple Watch, provided that you have your iPhone nearby or have a Wi-Fi or Cellular data connection from the watch itself. On the Apple Watch, the feature is activated by pressing and holding the side button, and then either actuating the “Emergency SOS” slider that appears, or continuing to hold the button down to begin a countdown instead.
Customizing Emergency SOS
You can also customize the Emergency SOS feature further in the iPhone Settings app or the Apple Watch app (on your iPhone).
On the iPhone 8 and iPhone X or later models, you can choose to enable a five-time press of the side button as an alternate trigger for Emergency SOS, similar to how older iPhone models work, and can also choose to enable “Auto Call” to initiate the Emergency SOS countdown immediately in this case, rather than simply presenting the slider screen. For the Apple Watch, a similar setting can be found in the Emergency SOS section in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.