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Now the UK is warning Android users over accidental emergency calls

Maybe Android OEMs shouldn't enable this critical feature by default?
By

Published onJune 23, 2023

android 12 developer preview 1 emergency sos
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • UK police have warned against Android’s Emergency SOS feature.
  • The feature has resulted in a sharp rise in accidental emergency service calls.
  • The warning comes after similar warnings around the world.

Several Android OEMs offer Emergency SOS on their phones, allowing you to quickly tap the power button five times to call emergency services. This has unfortunately resulted in a sharp rise in the number of unnecessary emergency calls in some countries, and now the UK has raised the alarm.

The BBC reports (h/t: Mishaal Rahman) that the National Police Chiefs Council of the UK has warned against Emergency SOS functionality on Android devices. The feature has been available on Android since Android 12.

“Nationally, all emergency services are currently experiencing record high 999 call volumes. There’s a few reasons for this (sic), but one we think is having a significant impact is an update to Android smartphones,” the council was quoted as saying.

Google’s response to the matter

A Google spokesperson told the outlet that the company would provide manufacturers with guidance and resources to prevent these unnecessary calls.

“We anticipate device manufacturers will roll out updates to their users that address this issue shortly. Users that continue to experience this issue should switch Emergency SOS off for the next couple of days,” the spokesperson explained.

For what it’s worth, brands like Samsung, Google, and Xiaomi have this personal safety feature enabled by default. This includes a short countdown and loud chime before the call is placed.

Have you ever accidentally activated Emergency SOS on Android?

219 votes

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen authorities warn against Emergency SOS on Android phones causing increased call volumes. Police services in Ontario, Canada cautioned against this feature back in April, while a Minnesota sheriff’s department called on users to disable the feature earlier this month. Europe’s emergency number association also confirmed that some members were suffering from increased call volumes due to the Android feature.

It nevertheless seems like this particular Emergency SOS feature needs to either be disabled by default or needs more safeguards when activating it for the first time. Either way, it’s more evidence that OEMs need to stop messing with the power button.