Android phones are accidentally calling emergency services and it needs to stop

Google's Android 12 software update is causing some phones to accidentally call emergency services when there is no need, and authorities can't cope.

1 minute & 3 seconds read time

Owners of Android phones updated to Android 12 are finding themselves in hot water thanks to a new emergency SOS feature that has a habit of misfiring.

According to reports by multiple authorities in the United Kingdom, emergency services around the country are experiencing unusually high numbers of accidental calls and it's thought that Android's latest emergency feature is to blame.

The feature was introduced in 2021 and is designed to help people more quickly and easily contact emergency services when they need them. That's done by pressing the power button five times in a row. Once the fifth button press is complete, the call to emergency services is placed. And it's that lack of any confirmation action that's tripping people up. Some phones are accidentally calling after being banged around in a bag or a pocket, it seems.

While iPhones have a similar emergency SOS feature, they do require an on-screen swipe gesture to initiate the call, something Google's Android doesn't currently wait for before making a call.

Things are now thought to be so bad that some call centers are receiving hundreds of false and silent calls each day. Each call has to be followed up, with authorities warning that can take 20 minutes per call. As a result, they're asking people who notice an accidental call not to simply hang up but to wait for the phone to be answered before explaining what happened.

As for Google, it told the BBC that it's working with phone manufacturers on a fix that will hopefully improve matters.

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Based in the UK, Oliver has been writing about technology, entertainment, and games for more than a decade. If there's something with a battery or a plug, he's interested. After spending too much money building gaming PCs, Oliver switched to Apple and the Mac - and now spends too much on those instead.

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