Android and iOS are increasingly adopting emergency SOS features. iPhone 14 models ship with the highly praised “Emergency SOS via Satellite” feature that allows users to send SOS messages even when there is no Wi-Fi or cellular connection.
Similarly, Android has paid renewed attention to its emergency SOS features, starting with Android 12. While these emergency measures are important, they all have limitations. If you own an Android device and would love to add an extra layer of protection, here’s how to add a panic button to your Android smartphone.
Why do you need an emergency panic button?
While we would all prefer to be safe, emergencies happen from time to time. It could be a theft, a medical emergency, or something totally unexpected. A common theme in emergencies is uncertainty and panic. You don’t know what to expect next, and you may not be able to come up with a smart course of action. Sometimes logical thinking just flies out the window.
The best time to plan for emergencies is before they happen. A good way to do this is to create an emergency panic button on your Android smartphone. A feature that would execute all your pre-programmed logical courses of action while you may be too scared up to your neck to think straight.
So how do you create an emergency panic button on your Android smartphone?
How to add a panic button to your Android smartphone using MacroDroid
Besides the native Android SOS features, there are no hidden emergency features you can implement. To create a panic button, we’ll use MacroDroid, an Android automation app. There are several other free automation apps you can use to achieve a similar result, but MacroDroid is by far the easiest to use.
If you are not familiar with the app, check out our guide on how to use MacroDroid.
The idea is to create an easily accessible panic button in the Quick Settings menu. Once pressed, it should:
- Send a personalized SOS message with your last known location via SMS.
- Secretly dial 911.
Of course, there are many more emergency actions that you could add to the list. For example, you can send your location via SMS every three minutes or maybe secretly record a video or take photos. However, for brevity, we will stick with these two actions.
Step 1 – Create a macro
To get started, head over to the Play Store and install macrodroid. The app is free and you can unlock more features through in-app purchases:
- Launch your MacroDroid app and on the home screen, tap add macro.
- Enter a name for your macro in the input area labeled Enter the name of the macro. We will call ours “SOS Message”.
- Now, tap on the little File icon next to the macro name input area. Doing so should reveal the text entry for the macro description just below the macro name entry area.
- Optionally, type a description for your macro.
Step 2 – Create a Quick Settings and Trigger Button
With that done, it’s time to create a trigger for our SOS message. The trigger in this case will be a button in the Quick Settings menu. Once pressed, it should trigger all of our pre-programmed SOS actions.
- Tap on the more (+) button at the top of the triggers panel on the MacroDroid home screen.
- Locate and touch MacroDroid-specific and then select Quick Settings Tile > Configure Quick Settings Tiles.
- On the next screen, choose any unused Quick Settings tile slot. We will use the first empty space MacroDroid Mosaic 1 for this demo.
- In the input area labeled enter labeltype “Panic Button” or any name of your choice.
- Below the input area, you will find two radio buttons. Tap the button labeled Button and then check the checkbox labeled Collapse in the press.
- Lever Disable on the right side of the MacroDroid tile slot to enable the slot.
- Tap the settings icon on the left side of the tile slot and choose any icon to use as your panic button icon.
- Tap the back button on your phone (or swipe to go back).
- On the next screen, choose the name of the Quick Settings tile you just created and tap OK > Activate / Push Button > OK.
Step 3 – Add the Actions
Once this is done, the button itself is set. The next thing is to add the actions that will be performed when you press the panic button. To do this:
- From the MacroDroid home screen, tap the more (+) button at the top of the Behaviour panel.
- Faucet Messaging > Send SMS and then fill in the phone number of a trusted contact in the phone number field provided. It could be your mom, husband, wife, dad, or the emergency services.
- Below the phone number entry area, you will find a text field for writing an emergency message. You can write something as simple as “I’m in trouble, I need help. I’ll send the GPS coordinates shortly.”
- Touch the checkmark in the upper right corner of the screen to save. You should be back at the macro editing screen.
Now add a follow-up SMS containing your GPS coordinates accessible via a Google Map link. To do this:
- Tap on the more (+) button on the Behaviour panel.
- Go to Location > Force location update.
- Tap on the more (+) button on the Behaviour board once more.
- Tap on Location > Share location > SMS > OK > Select numberenter a trusted contact, and then tap okay.
- Select a preferred SIM for multi-sim devices and touch okay.
That should be enough to share your location with a trusted contact. You can repeat the steps to share your location with as many contacts as you want. The next emergency action to include is to secretly call 911. To do this:
- Once again, touch the button more (+) button on the Behaviour panel.
- Tap on Phone > Make call > [Select Number].
- Type 911 or your local emergency services contact in the phone number field and tap okay.
- Tap the check mark icon in the bottom right corner of the macro editing screen to save your progress.
Step 4 – Add your panic button to the quick settings panel
Once this is done, there is one final step you will need to complete to get your panic button in your Quick Settings Menu.
- Swipe down from the top of your phone screen to reveal your Quick Settings menu.
- Tap on the Edit icon and add the MacroDroid Mosaic 1 shortcut tile to your quick settings menu.
Your panic button must be active and functional. If you’ve gone through the entire process up to this point, tapping the panic button should trigger all of your pre-programmed actions.
If you’re having any difficulty customizing your Quick Settings, check out this detailed guide on how to add custom Quick Settings shortcuts to your Android Quick Settings menu.
There is room for improvement
For the scope of this article, we have decided to stick to the basic features. However, there is a lot of room for improvement. I could say, add an addendum to:
- Secretly record audio for 30 seconds and forward it to a designated contact.
- Send an SOS message via email as well.
- Send a message through WhatsApp.
- Send your medical information to the designated contacts.
- Delete sensitive files on your smartphone if you think your data might be at risk.
There are endless emergency measures you can take, it just requires a little creativity.
It is our desire to avoid emergencies and dangerous situations, but it is important to be prepared in case we ever find ourselves in one. Using MacroDroid to modify an SOS function may not be the perfect emergency solution, but with a little ingenuity, it could be a lifesaver when it matters most.