How to set up Emergency SOS on your smartwatch


While smartwatches have always been able to relay notifications, the ability to make emergency calls has been a big step towards making them standalone devices.

Generally, emergency SOS functions have two functions. The first is to call the local emergency services if you find yourself in a bind. For example, if you take a bad spill and can’t get to the phone, your watch can call 911. The second is to relay your location to a select group of trusted contacts. For people who want to leave their phone at home, these features can ensure that loved ones can find you if you’re injured or need help.

You don’t necessarily need a cell watch to use Emergency SOS. However, a cell watch is the best option if you want emergency SOS to be available at all times. Otherwise, you’ll need to have your phone nearby or your watch will need some kind of internet connectivity via Wi-Fi.

However, just because you have a device capable of making emergency SOS calls doesn’t mean it’s automatically set up. For example, you’ll need to designate people as emergency contacts if that’s a relevant feature for you.

With that in mind, here’s how to set up and use the Emergency SOS features on some of the most popular smartwatches.

apple watch

You can change the settings in the Watch app on your iPhone.
Screenshot: Victoria Song / The Verge

The Apple Watch has full emergency calling capabilities. When you use the Emergency SOS feature, the watch will call and send your location to local emergency services. It’s not necessarily limited to your home country either. If you have an Apple Watch SE or Series 5 or later, you can also access emergency services internationally. (You should, however, check which countries are supported before any travel.)

To make an emergency call from your wrist:

  • Press and hold the side button. It’s the flat button under the digital crown.
  • You should see three sliders: To extinguish, Medical IDand Emergency SOS.
  • Drag the Emergency SOS cursor to start a call.
  • You can also just hold down the side button until a countdown begins.

If you want the watch to notify your trusted contacts as well, you’ll need to set aside time to designate who those contacts are. To add/remove emergency contacts:

  • Open the Health app on your iPhone.
  • Tap your profile icon in the upper right corner.
  • Faucet Medical ID.
  • To select To modify and scroll to Emergency contacts.
  • Press the “+” button to add a contact.
  • Choose from your contacts a person you trust.
  • You will be asked to describe their relationship with you.
  • Faucet Fact.
  • In edit mode, you can also press the “-” button to remove someone as an emergency contact.

Tips and things to remember:

  • If you make an emergency call, Apple Watch will continuously share your location with your emergency contacts. It will periodically send you a notification to remind you. You can stop this by pressing stop sharing when the reminder appears.
  • If you tend to press the side button accidentally, you can disable it so that it automatically calls emergency services when held down. Just go to Watch on your iPhone, select the application My watch tab, select Emergency SOSand turn it off Hold side button to dial to fall over. This only disables the shortcut to trigger an automatic call countdown. You can still hold down the side button to bring up the Emergency SOS call slider.
  • If you use the Emergency SOS feature abroad, your emergency contacts will not be notified.

Emergency SOS calls are coming to Wear OS 3 later this year.
Picture: The Edge

Wear the operating system

During this year’s Google I/O keynote, the company noted that Emergency SOS will be a feature of Wear OS 3. This means the upcoming Google Pixel Watch and all other Wear OS 3 watches will be able to support emergency calls. We’ll update this section once the Pixel Watch and Wear OS 3 upgrades arrive in Fall 2022.

Samsung Smartwatches

Emergency SOS is not configured by default on Samsung smartwatches, including the most recent Galaxy Watch 4 line. It is also not available on the Galaxy Fit or Galaxy Fit 2. If you see the message Emergency calls only on your Samsung smartwatch, this is a sign that you have not set up cellular connectivity and the feature will only work if you have your phone with you.

Emergency SOS is not configured by default on Samsung smartwatches. You will have to activate it yourself.
Picture: Samsung

However, Samsung’s Emergency SOS will not currently call local emergency services (although this may change when Emergency SOS features arrive on Wear OS 3 in the fall). Instead, it will call and notify your pre-selected emergency contacts of your location. Once you’ve set up your contacts, you can activate Emergency SOS by quickly pressing the power button three times.

Here’s how to start:

  • Open the wearable galaxy application.
  • Faucet Watch settings.
  • To select Advanced features.
  • Faucet S.O.S..
  • Activate the labeled toggle When the home key is pressed 3 times.
  • There is a supplement Countdown before sending to fall over. When enabled, it will add a five-second delay so you can undo accidental presses.
  • You can also enable the toggle When a sudden drop is detected.
  • To select emergency contacts, tap Create contact or Select from Contacts.
  • Under the Emergency contacts menu, you can also designate contacts to send text messages and calls to.
  • To designate who will receive text messages, select Send messages to and choose a contact.
  • For calls, select Make an SOS call to then select a contact.

Garmin wearable devices

Garmin, a wearable brand popular with outdoor enthusiasts, offers an emergency call version called Assistance. However, assistance is not enabled by default. Also, only certain Garmin smartwatches or trackers, like the Forerunner 945 LTE, have LTE capability – most Garmin devices require you to have your phone nearby to alert your emergency contacts. Your phone will also need to have a viable cellular signal, which is something to keep in mind if you plan on hiking, biking, or running in an area without good reception.

The Safety Features menu in the Garmin Connect app.
Image: Victoria Song/The Verge

Additionally, iOS users must have the Garmin Connect app open and running in the background. Even if your device is connected via Bluetooth, if the Garmin Connect app is not open, this feature will not work.

Since Garmin devices come in a wide variety of form factors, there is no universal way to send emergency alerts. Typically, you can activate an alert on a Garmin watch by holding down the top left button for about seven seconds. For trackers, you typically hold the button down until the watch vibrates three times. Even then, double-check the trigger for your specific device here.

To configure Support:

  • Open the Garmin Login app on your smartphone.
  • If you are an Android user, select the three bar icon on the top corner left. If you are an iOS user, select the After bottom right tab.
  • Scroll to Security and Tracking.
  • Faucet Safety devices.
  • Faucet my information and enter your details.
  • Return to the previous menu and select Emergency contacts.
  • You can add up to three contacts by tapping Add an emergency contact. Garmin recommends adding more than one.
  • In the Emergency call menu, you can add a number to call if the Assistance function is triggered. However, your phone must be nearby and paired to your device for this feature to work.

Now that everything is ready, here’s a little reminder: be sure to periodically check who your designated emergency contacts are. It’s a good idea to do this whenever you buy a new watch, move to a new city, go through a breakup, have an argument or a trusted contact dies. Remember: this shouldn’t be a feature you set once and forget.


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