iOS 11’s SOS feature is more than a way to call for help

Should you find yourself in an unsafe situation and need to quickly call for help, a new feature in iOS 11 makes that possible. Emergency SOS will call contacts and local emergency services after the sleep/wake button is pressed five times a rapid succession.

Here’s what you need to know about the new feature.

Medical info, emergency contacts and SOS

To customize how the SOS feature works, go to Settings > Emergency SOS. There you can view who is added as your emergency contact, and enable automatic calling.

Any emergency contacts listed on this screen are because you’ve added the person(s) in the Apple Health app. If you want to remove or add another person, you’ll need to do so in that app.

A potential downside to enabling automatic calling is accidental triggering of the SOS feature. All it takes is five rapid presses of the sleep/wake button to trigger a call, and there’s no guarantee that won’t happen in a pocket or purse. I recommend leaving the Countdown Sound option enabled if you go this route; an alarm will play for three-seconds once the SOS feature is triggered, giving you a chance to cancel the call.

Without automatic call enabled, you’ll need to slide a button across the display before a call will be placed.

Touch ID side effect

One of the changes Apple added during the iOS 11 beta to its SOS feature is, when triggered, your iPhone will disable Touch ID and require your passcode before it’s enabled again.

Why is this a big deal? If you find yourself in trouble with law enforcement, they can’t force you to give up your passphrase or PIN code to your device. They can, however, force you to use a fingerprint to gain access to your phone.

How to help others

If you’re in a situation where someone needs help and they have an iPhone, press the sleep/wake button to bring up the SOS feature and slide the Medical ID button to the right. Odds are you’ve already called for help, but using the feature you can find the person’s emergency contacts to let them know what’s going on.

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