In iOS 11, Apple has introduced a new Emergency SOS feature to the iPhone. Let’s look at what it does.

To use Emergency SOS on an iPhone 7 or earlier, press the power button five times quickly. To use it on an iPhone 8, 8 Plus, or X, press and hold both the power button and one of the volume buttons.

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Emergency SOS does a couple of things. First, it locks your phone and disables Touch ID and Face ID. To unlock your phone again, you need to enter your password. We’ve talked about this feature before, and it’s a big deal, because under US law, the police can force you to unlock your phone with your fingerprint or face, but they can’t force you to enter your password. This, however, is just one aspect of Emergency SOS.

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Emergency SOS also brings up a screen with three swipe bars: one to power off the iPhone, one to access your Medical ID, and one to call the local emergency services; in some areas such as China, you’ll be prompted to select which service you want, for example, whether you want to call the police or an ambulance. Swiping on any of them does exactly what you’d expect.

To configure Emergency SOS, go to Settings > Emergency SOS.

To have your iPhone start calling the emergency services as soon as you trigger Emergency SOS turn on Auto Call. This is on by default on the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X.

Now, as soon as you trigger Emergency SOS, your iPhone will display a three second countdown and play a loud noise. Once the countdown ends, the iPhone will dial emergency services. You can cancel the call before the countdown ends by tapping Stop and then End Call.

You can also turn the countdown sound off in the Settings menu.

Emergency SOS pulls your Emergency Contact details from your Medical ID in the Health app. To add an Emergency Contact, either head to the Health app yourself or tap Edit Emergency Contacts in Health. Check out our full guide to setting up an Emergency Medical ID for more.

Emergency SOS is a handy feature with a few uses. It makes it easy for you to call the emergency services without knowing the exact number from anyone’s iPhone. It also stops people forcing you to unlock your phone with Touch ID or Face ID.

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Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like The New York Times and on a variety of other websites, from Lifehacker to Popular Science and Medium's OneZero.
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