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How do I turn a Samsung Galaxy phone into a panic alarm?

Samsung Galaxy panic alarm
Don't panic: the phone can alert others to your emergency

Smartphones are invaluable in an emergency – but your Samsung Galaxy handset might be even more useful in a tight spot than you realised. It can even be used as a panic alarm, quickly and silently alerting friends or family that you’re in trouble and need help.

We’ll show you how to set up this SOS feature and what it does.

How do you set up a Samsung Galaxy panic alarm?

To check if your Samsung Galaxy offers the SOS Messages feature, open the Settings app, select Advanced Features and, if your handset supports it, it will be listed here. It should be available on any of the variants of the Galaxy S9 and S10.

Setting up the service is quite straightforward. In the Advanced Features menu, flick the button next to SOS Messages to the green ON position.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll be asked to nominate the contacts you wish to send the SOS Messages to. Assuming they’re already stored in your phone, you just select them from the list. You can add multiple contacts, if you want to send the messages to both parents, say.

You’ll then have additional options to send pictures and send audio. If you choose to send pictures, the phone will snap images from both the rear and front-facing cameras when you press the emergency button (we’ll come to that in a minute).

If you choose audio, a five-second sound clip will be recorded when you press the emergency button, which will also be sent to your contacts, potentially giving them a chance to hear what’s going on or to let you record a quick plea for help.

How do you raise the alarm?

Once you’ve completed the setup, you’ll be able to raise the SOS alarm by pressing the power button three times in quick succession.

This is where a rather gaping design flaw emerges in Samsung’s system. By default, the shortcut to open the camera on your phone is two presses of the power button. That means you have to be extraordinarily careful not to accidentally press an extra time and raise panic amongst your nearest and dearest when you’re merely trying to take a selfie.

We strongly suggest that if you’re planning on using the SOS feature, you don’t use the double-press shortcut to open the camera.

What do the SOS messages look like?

What do the SOS Messages look like to the recipient? I sent a fake one to my co-editor so you can see for yourself.

As you can see, you get a Google map pinpointing the precise location, the audio clip, and photos snapped by the rear and front cameras. You can see the sheer terror in my face…

It’s worth noting that the phone does all of this silently when you press the power button combo, so as not to alert any attacker. However, sending the messages relies on mobile reception and GPS reception for the tracking. If you find yourself in trouble on a Tube train, for example, this might not be the best way of raising the alarm.

NOW READ THIS: How do I block a number on Samsung mobiles?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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