Two weeks ago, after having the sound off on my new Samsung Galaxy S5 Rugged smartphone for a meeting, I entered my lock screen passcode and checked my messages. There was one from the Orange Police Department asking me to call back if there was an emergency and, if I dialed by accident, to be more careful. My call log showed I’d butt-dialed 911. Gotta be more careful to lock my phone, I thought, and I was … but four days later, it happened again, the Garden Grove Police this time. I couldn’t figure out how it happened. I have, after all, a very talented tushie but entering entering a four digit passcode is beyond its skill level. Then it happened again. That was when I noticed the Emergency Call button on the lock screen. I pushed it once … up popped the ICE (In Case of Emergency number, 911) and with another push, I was dialing the 911 operator again. Two pushes, my butt can do, without breaking a sweat (not a pretty picture).
It turns out that because emergency call features that bypass the lock screen are required by law on all new smartphones, inadvertent calls from cell phones are a national problem, overloading 911 operators with silent calls that last an average of 19 seconds, perhaps delaying their response to real emergencies. Most locales report that 10-20% of 911 calls are inadvertent cell phone calls but the NY Daily News reports that almost 40% of the ten million 911 calls in New York City were in butt-dials. Did you know that in some places, if your phone provides a GPS position, officers must be sent to the vicinity just to be sure it’s not an emergency. Not wanting to interfere with emergency service … or have the police show up at my door, I needed to fix the problem. The question was, How?
On my Galaxy S5*, the emergency call button is a feature on the lock screen only when a passcode or password is required. The quick solution was to remove the passcode but, of course, this leaves my phone … and its contents … available to anyone whom might find it. Yes, I can be forgetful. The other day, I left my phone on my favorite picnic table in the afternoon and had to dash back for it just before dark. Yes, I can be lucky, too. Searching online, I found dozens of suggestions, many of which don’t work. For example, since the emergency dialing feature is required by law, it can’t be disabled**. I found a suggestion that I change the ICE number from 911 to a nonsense number, but when I tried, my phone informed me that the preloaded number can’t be changed. PC World recommended using a holster instead of a pocket to carry my phone (no thank you) or an app called Call Confirm that requires additional pushes to complete any call. Won’t stop me, said my talented tushie. Several internet sites suggested using a third party locker app in place of the native lock function on the phone. After a some looking, I found GO Locker on the Google Play Store which gives me a very nice lock function with no emergency button. And it lets me keep a picture of my granddaughter as my lock screen wallpaper. All I had to do is install it on my phone and select None under Screen Lock in my phone’s settings. Problem fixed. I’m a law abiding old curmudgeon again. And my tushie has to find something else to do. Like sit on my favorite bench in the park.
* OK, I know there’s someone out there just dying to say, If you had an iPhone, you wouldn’t have this problem. Wrong, fanboy (girl). The problem is reported for all new phones requiring the emergency button on the lock screen. You can find some relevant apps for iPhones here.
** Yes, my techie friends, if you are willing to root your Andriod phone or jailbreak your iPhone, you can eliminate the Emergency Call button.