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How to increase your personal safety with Pixel and Samsung phones


While there has — rightly — been a great deal written and broadcast about how to deal with attacks and privacy violations online and via social media, there is now increasing attention being paid to helping people stay safe in their homes and out in the world.

Android phones have, over the last few years, added several personal safety features to their toolboxes. Because the apps and features that come with the phones can differ depending on the manufacturer, what follows are some of the ways you can use the tools offered by Pixel and Samsung phones. If you have an Android phone from a different manufacturer, your best bet is to see what you have that is similar to what comes with either of these phones.

Pixel phones come with a Safety app, which offers a variety of ways to help ensure your personal safety. To access all its various features, look for the Safety app in your app drawer — if it isn’t already there, look for the Personal Safety app in the App Store. When you first open the app, you will be offered the chance to run through several demos that will show you how to set up the included tools.

Samsung has several equivalent emergency measures on its phones, which we will look at as well. And if you have another type of Android phone, you may have similar features; use the directions below as a guide to try to find your equivalents.

So, here are some of the tools you can use to help stay safe.

Send an emergency message with your location

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation or an emergency happens and you don’t have the time to start texting or calling, both Samsung and Pixel phones let you automatically send a message to an emergency contact.

Samsung

You can set up your Samsung phone to send an alert to an emergency contact; you can also attach a five-second audio recording and pictures from the front and rear cameras. 

  • Go to Settings > Safety and emergency > Send SOS messages.
  • Toggle Send SOS message on. Agree to the usual Terms and Conditions, and make sure to give it the required permissions.
  • When prompted, tap either Create contact or Select from contacts to determine who will get SOS messages. You can set a maximum of four people to receive your SOS alerts.
Screenshot of Samsung’s safety and emergency settings screen, with the Send SOS messages toggle.

Toggling Send SOS messages will take you through the setup process, which involves designating contacts to send the alerts to.

Screenshot showing a dialog box that says “Add recipient, with “Create contact” and “Select from contacts” buttons.

Tapping Select from contacts brings up a list of your contacts, and you can choose up to four people to receive SOS messages.

  • You can make changes to your SOS message contacts by scrolling to the bottom of the Send SOS messages screen and tapping Send messages to. From there, you can add additional people by pressing the plus button and remove people from the list with the garbage can button.

By default, the system will attach pictures taken with your front and rear cameras as well as a five-second audio recording to the SOS message. If you want, you can turn that off using the Attach pictures or Attach audio recording toggles.

Image showing a dialog box that reads: “Sending SOS messages soon. Your SOS message will be sent to Mitchell Clark in 9 seconds,” followed by a cancel button.

You’ll get a 10-second warning before the SOS message is sent.

Once you’ve set it up, when you press the power button quickly three times, a message will be sent to your contact(s), along with photos and audio depending on your settings. (You can also make it so that it takes four button presses if you’re worried about accidental activations.) Your contact(s) will also get a link to your location on Google Maps and will get updates to your location if it changes.

Pixel

Google’s Safety app offers several ways to help you keep safe. Emergency SOS will automatically call emergency services — and, if you want, notify your emergency contacts — if you quickly press the power button five or more times. Emergency sharing will share your location and other info (such as if you’re making a call or if your battery is running low) with your emergency contacts, while Safety check lets you set a time at which your phone will check with you to see if you feel safe. If you don’t answer the check, then the phone will call your emergency contacts.

The first time you start the Safety app, there will be several wizards on the page to walk you through the process of setting it up. You can also set up the different features by selecting the cog icon in the upper left of the app. That’s how we’ll do it here.

To set up Emergency SOS:

  • Start the Safety app and tap the Settings cog icon > Emergency SOS.
personal safety page with two large buttons

The Personal Safety page lets you immediately start Safety check and Emergency sharing.

Safety settings screen

You can access a number of safety features from the settings screen.

  • On the Emergency SOS page, toggle on Use Emergency SOS. This will let you send your SOS alert by pressing the power button five or more times. After that, you’ll have five seconds to cancel the alert.
  • You can also set up an alarm sound by toggling the Play alarm sound on. If you want to know what it will sound like, tap the Test sound link just below it.
  • It’s also a good idea to use the Try a demo button below the toggle so that you have a sense of how fast you need to hit the power button in order to start Emergency SOS.
Emergency SOS screen

Once you’ve set your Emergency SOS, you can try a demo.

Emergency SOS countdown

You will have five seconds to cancel an Emergency SOS.

After that, you can decide what will happen if you press the power button five times.

  • Tap on Emergency SOS to go to the Call emergency services page, where you can change the number to call (in case you’re not in a 911 area) and also enable assisted calling, which will share your location and details with the emergency services without your having to speak.
  • If you want to text your location and updates to your emergency contacts, then toggle on Share info with emergency contacts. To use this, you will have to add one or more emergency contacts by going to the app’s Settings and tapping Emergency contacts.
  • If you want to record an emergency video at the same time that you’re contacting emergency services, you can toggle that on as well. It will record for up to 45 minutes or until you stop the recording and will (if you set it to) automatically share a link to the video with your emergency contacts.
  • You can also set Emergency SOS to just start a video — so if your main concern is that you may have a confrontation that you’ll need a record of, you can use the five presses to start up to 45 minutes of video recording without calling emergency services. You can contact 911 or your emergency contacts from the recording screen if you need to, and you will have to use your unlock code to stop recording.
You will have five seconds to cancel an Emergency SOS.

You can set Emergency SOS just to record video.

Emergency video

From the video screen, you can contact emergency contacts or services.

To set up Emergency sharing:

You can let your emergency contacts track you for up to 24 hours.

  • Go to the Safety app and tap the large red Emergency sharing button.
  • The next page will show you who your emergency contacts are; all are automatically checked, but you can uncheck the boxes next to their names if you don’t want them contacted. You can also give a short reason you’re enabling sharing.
  • Then just tap the Share button in the lower-right corner.

To set up Safety check:

Safety check can help you feel secure if you’re heading into a possibly dangerous situation. If you enable the safety check feature, it will ask you to check in with it at a preset time; if you don’t, it will call your emergency contact(s). Note that in order to use this feature, you have to grant the app location permission while it’s in use.

  • Go to the Safety app and tap the large yellow Safety check button.
  • Use the two drop-down menus to say why you are turning on safety check (for example, walking alone, going for a run, taking transportation, or hiking; you can also write your own reason) and when you want to check in (anywhere from 15 minutes to eight hours; you can also choose your own timing). Tap on Next.
Turn on safety check page.

Safety check will ask you to check in at a preset time.

Safety check countdown page

The Safety check screen shows your countdown and lets you call 911 if you need to.

  • Select which of your emergency contacts you want contacted if you don’t respond to the check and tap on Turn on. There is a toggle that will let you notify your contacts when safety check is turned on (so they won’t be caught unawares).
  • The safety check screen will then come on. It will show the duration of the check, what time you need to check in, and who will be contacted if you don’t. You can also enable Emergency sharing and call 911 from that screen or hit the large red button to stop the check.

Make an emergency call from the lock screen

Sometimes you can’t take the time to unlock your phone (especially if you’re still wrestling with a Pixel’s fingerprint reader). You don’t need to. Both Samsung and Pixel phones (and most, if not all, other Android phones) allow you to call emergency services from the lock screen.

  • Swipe up on your screen and look for the Emergency or Emergency call button. Tap that, and you’ll be taken to a phone dial pad that will let you dial an emergency number.
  • If you have a Pixel, you will also see a View emergency info button that, when pressed, will access your stored medical information and emergency contacts.
  • If you have a Samsung, your emergency contacts will appear at the top of the screen, and a Medical info icon will lead to your stored data. You can add or update your medical info and emergency contacts by going to Settings > Safety and emergency.
Emergency dialing pad and link to emergency info.

On a Pixel, you can make an emergency call or view info such as contacts and medical info.

Screenshot showing Samsung’s Emergency call screen. At the top, there is an emergency contact for Mitchell Clark, followed by a number pad for entering in a phone number. To the left of the call button, there’s a medical info button.

On a Samsung, tapping on one of your emergency contacts will let you make an emergency call.



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