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Apple Watch 101: Activating the SOS Emergency Calling Feature

Call for help anywhere in the world
That iThingy You're Wearing
September 27, 2016

While hopefully, you’ll never need to use it, the SOS calling feature in watchOS 3 is available to any Apple Watch user.

What is it?

What is it?
Press and hold the Apple Watch side button to bring up the feature.

Press and hold the Apple Watch side button to bring up the feature.

As you could probably tell by the name, it’s designed to help you quickly and easily call emergency services using the watch. In an emergency, push and hold the watch’s side button and then slide the Emergency SOS toggle. You’ll need to be paired to an iPhone or connected to a known wireless network with Wi-Fi calling enabled for the call to go through. You’ll use the watch’s speakerphone capability.

No matter where you are in the world, the watch will automatically call emergency services. For example, that’s 911 in the United States and 999 in a number of other countries like the United Kingdom. Apple says that in some countries, like China, you’ll need to select whether to call fire, police, or an ambulance.

During the call, the dispatcher will be sent your location, even without Location Services activated. After the call is complete, you can also optionally notify selected SOS contacts that you’ve made an emergency call.

The special contacts will, for a short time, also receive updates if your location changes.

If a call is started by mistake, quickly Force Touch the watch’s screen and select End Call.

A great safety net

A great safety net
You can select SOS contacts by using the Apple Watch app on an iPhone.

You can select SOS contacts by using the Apple Watch app on an iPhone.

To select your SOS contacts, you’ll need to use the Apple Watch app on an iPhone. First select the My Watch Tab, then choose General, Emergency SOS. You can add up to three different people who are on your contact list. Select Edit in the top right hand corner to delete a contact from the list.

You can also select to enable or disable the auto call feature. With it enabled, press and continue to hold the side button to automatically call emergency services after a countdown begins and alert sounds. When disabled, you’ll have to hold the side button and then move the SOS slider.

I like that Apple gives users two different options to enable the feature. Personally, with grabby kids at my house who love to play with the watch, I’ve disabled Auto Call. But your situation could be different.

Along with coming in handy after a car accident, the feature could definitely be helpful during an accident or other issue at home.

To use SOS calling, you’ll need to have watchOS 3 installed on an Apple Watch. Learn more about how to do that and other new features here. The software comes already installed on any Apple Watch Series 2 or Series 1 model. A Series 1 watch starts at $269 while the Series 2 versions begin at $369.