A quick call to emergency services is one of the functions of most modern smartphones. But sometimes such capabilities can hamper emergency services due to accidental activations. For example, the iPhone’s Crash Detection function detected road accidents when users were in amusement parks or at music festivals. And with Android smartphones, similar stories also happen.

As Police Scotland recently complained, the number of calls to the emergency number 999 has increased to a record, and one of the reasons for this phenomenon is the Android update.

Nationally, all emergency services are currently experiencing record high 999 call volumes. There’s a few reasons for this, but one we think is having a significant impact is an update to Android smartphones…

Starting with Android 12, the system allows you to quickly contact emergency services by pressing the power button five times in a row. The function is called Emergency SOS. After activating it, there are a few seconds to cancel the call, but the primary purpose is to be able to call, for example, the police, without having to look at the smartphone. 

Different manufacturers may slightly change the rules of operation of the function, but for the most part it works this way. At the same time, the Google Pixel can even start recording a video at the same time.

According to the Scottish National Police, with the update to Android 13, cases of false calls have increased. This can add up to 20 extra processing minutes for operators, as they must ensure that the call is not false. The same behavior was recorded by the European Emergency Number Association.

Google has already responded to the situation and promised to make adjustments to the work of Emergency SOS “shortly”, although it did not explain exactly what changes are planned:

To help these manufacturers prevent unintentional emergency calls on their devices, Android is providing them with additional guidance and resources. 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.