Your iPhone Could Call 911 by Mistake Thanks to a New Feature, Users Report
It's unclear whether the latest update will be able to fix the problem.
By now, even relatively old iPhones can do impressive things. But the release of a new model each year typically tacks on a few new features and capabilities that make them that much more helpful. Many of the latest add-ons make our lives easier, such as turning your device into a way to pay for groceries and other items with a simple tap at the cash register. Others have focused on safety, including safeguarding your device with face scans and keeping your personal information out of the hands of other people. But now, users are reporting that their iPhones are calling 911 by mistake because of a new feature. Read on to see how your device could accidentally reach out for help without there being an accident.
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The latest iPhone has impressive new safety features that could save your life.
With all your smartphone can do, it can be easy to forget that it's a powerful safety device at its most basic level. Whether it's calling for roadside assistance after blowing a tire or getting an ambulance in a medical emergency, the device in your pocket is one of the fastest ways to send out a call for help. And now, thanks to advancements in technology, the latest iPhone models make it even easier to ensure you'll get the assistance you need with two new features—no matter where you are or if you can even reach your device.
One such major safety add-on is emergency SOS via satellite. On Nov. 15, Apple announced it had activated the latest feature, which will allow users to get out a distress call from remote areas even if they're outside of network coverage areas thanks to a satellite connection. Anyone with a model from the iPhone 14 lineup running iOS 16.1 or higher can send information to a call center, including what's gone wrong and location coordinates.
The second major upgrade is the iPhone 14's new crash-detection technology. The new feature uses built-in sensors and software to detect when someone has been in a driving accident or sudden fall and will automatically call 911 if they're unresponsive or can't reach their phone. So far, the add-on has proven effective at alerting emergency response teams to major crashes and allowing them to respond more quickly. But just like any new technology, there are still a few kinks that Apple is working out.
iPhone users report that their devices call 911 by mistake in some situations.
We've all accidentally pocket-dialed a number at some point in our lives. But thanks to Apple's new technology, iPhone users have reported that their devices call 911 by mistake in certain situations that aren't emergencies—including roller coaster rides.
Last month, thrill seekers at Kings Island amusement park near Cincinnati, Ohio, noticed that the same drops and hairpin turns that made their ride so fun were also triggering the latest safety update on their iPhone into calling 911, The Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Warren County Communications Center, the feature generated six emergency calls since the latest model was released in late September, as of Oct. 9.
And it's not just limited to one park: False alarms were also sent from Six Flags Great America near Chicago. In one incident, park guest Marcus Nguyen said he was riding the park's Joker roller coaster when he heard the feature's alarm going off just as the ride ended, warning he had just 10 seconds before the iPhone automatically called 911. "I was still strapped into the ride, and I couldn't get to it. Finally, I was able to get to it before the countdown had finished," he told The Wall Street Journal.
Other activities are triggering the new safety feature.
Of course, roller coasters aren't the only non-emergency situation where people might find themselves changing speed and direction quickly. Users also say that the new crash detection software can also trick the iPhone into calling 911 when someone is enjoying a day on the slopes, Utah-based local news website KSL.com reports.
"They won't respond to you when you first start talking because I don't even think they knew that they did it, but on callback … they're usually like, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I was skiing. Everything's fine,'" Summit County Dispatch Center supervisor Suzie Butterfield told KSL.com. She added that she is now receiving about three to five calls a day thanks to the new technology, and that an actual emergency has generated none.
One Reddit user also warned other skiers about the false alarms after experiencing an issue of their own. "I had my phone in my pocket and was cruising down Tinkerbell at a totally moderate pace doing some short-radius turns on my second run of the year. To give you an idea of how moderate, I had just passed a slow sign with three safety patrol by it, and none of them even raised an eyebrow at me!"
"I stopped to wait for my wife, and my phone immediately started yelling, 'Have you been in an accident? We will call emergency services in 20 seconds! Woop! Woop!' I turned it off as quickly as possible and then immediately turned off all the emergency notification functions," they wrote.
There are ways you can stop your iPhone from accidentally calling 911.
While the accidental calls for help might prove that the potentially life-saving technology works, it also poses a potentially serious problem. "We are very vigilant about calls. No call doesn't get checked," Melissa Bour, the director of emergency services for Warren County, told The Wall Street Journal. "You get used to calls that are not an emergency, but it's wear and tear on the dispatchers."
Fortunately, the company may already be on top of the issue. The latest iOS software update addresses some issues with the new feature, even though Apple doesn't specify if it's in response to the false alarm problem, TechCrunch reports.
Even though it may seem like the first course of action would be to disable the latest iPhone feature, dispatchers say the alternative scenario is worse than a mistake 911 call. "Somebody could ski and hit a tree and be knocked unconscious and not be visible to other skiers," Butterfield told KSL.com. "We do not want you to turn the feature off. We would rather have you be safe. We don't mind taking that call because if something really did happen, we want to be able to get to you."
It's also relatively easy to temporarily disable the feature. For example, at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, guests are reminded to leave their phones in airplane mode or switch them off while on thrill rides, Coaster101.com wrote in a tweet on Sept. 28.