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Keeping safe while using your smartphone

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Woman using smartphone outside at night

Your smartphone can be a real lifeline when you’re out and about, especially if you’re walking home by yourself. From changing your settings to downloading some important apps, there are lots of simple things you can do with your smartphone to help improve your safety.

But what are these simple tips and tricks? And how can you keep your phone safe from pickpockets and thieves? Read on as we explore ways to keep you and your smartphone safe.

Go hands-free

A lot of people use their phone to talk to a friend or loved one while they’re walking home at night in order to make themselves feel safer. But rather than holding your phone to your ear, we recommend going hands-free, so you can keep your phone safe and your hands and eyes free from distractions.

You can enable your maps to read out directions to you via your headphones, so you don’t have to keep looking at your phone to work out where you need to go. This means you don’t need to have your phone on display, while also helping you to keep your attention focused on your surroundings.

A lot of high-end headphones have noise-cancelling tech, which can be great if you’re trying to listen to your music on a crowded tube. But if you’re walking home by yourself late at night, you will probably want to be able to listen out for any strange sounds. So it can be a good idea to use a cheap pair of buds that won’t block out background noise. This will also make you a less inviting target for a potential pickpocket. Alternatively, you could just put one earbud in, so you can listen to your phone, while keeping your other ear free to listen to what’s going on around you.

Keep your smartphone hidden

Woman putting smartphone in her bag

Going hands-free will mean you can keep your smartphone tucked away somewhere safe. After all, you won’t be able to use your smartphone to keep you safe if somebody pinches it. And walking around with a premium device in your hand or sticking out of your pocket can unfortunately lead to your phone being stolen.

It’s important to keep your phone somewhere that’s safe but easily accessible to you while you’re out and about. So it can be a good idea to hide it in an inside coat pocket or in a zip-up compartment on your bag or scarf. This will make it much harder for a pickpocket to swipe your phone.

We caught up with Jillian Kowalchuk, founder and CEO of the Safe & the City app, who said, “Our phones can feel like extensions of ourselves and we may forget how valuable they are to others. Treat your phone as another valuable to take precautions against opportunistic criminals.”

Save emergency contacts

Most smartphones have an emergency call button on the lockscreen, so you or someone else can dial 999 without unlocking the handset. Many phones also bring up a shortcut to 999 if you hold the On button and the Volume button at the same time.

But, whatever the emergency, chances are you’ll want your closest friend or family notified straight away. And by saving important numbers as emergency contacts, they can be accessed by anyone who finds your phone. Here’s how to do it on your phone:

How to save emergency contacts on an iPhone

You can set up emergency contacts on your iPhone health app by following these steps:

Open the health app on your iPhone, go to Medical ID and click Edit. Toggle the Show when locked slider on. Fill in any relevant information, such as allergies or specific medical conditions. Select Emergency contacts and click Add emergency contact and choose the names and numbers you want to add from your contacts list.

Your emergency contacts will be notified if an emergency call is made from your phone.

It’s worth noting that, from the iPhone 8 onwards, Apple has added a feature that will sound an alert and start a countdown from three to call 999 if you hold down the On button and Volume key at the same time. And if you have Siri activated, all you need to do is say the number “14” to the voice assistant and it will ask you if you want to make an emergency call.

How to save emergency contacts on an Android phone

You can add emergency contacts to your Android phone by following these steps:

Go to Settings and click on User and accounts. Select Emergency information. You can enter any relevant medical information by clicking Edit information. Click Add contact to add a person from your contacts list.

Share your location

Woman sharing location GPS maps on smartphone

Sharing your location with your friend or loved one or even with the emergency services can be really important if you need help.

You can share your location with one of your contacts on WhatsApp. To do this, simply go to your chat with your chosen contact, click the attachment button and select Location. This will share your location with the person you have messaged for as little as 15 minutes or up to eight hours.

On any Android device, you can share your location with the emergency services if you call 999. To enable this, go to Settings and click on Location. There is an option there to enable the Emergency Location Service. This will help the emergency services find you if you call them from your phone.

And if you have an iPhone, it will automatically share your location with the emergency services after the phone call is finished, provided you don’t disable this function. To check you have it enabled, take a look in the settings.

Best apps for keeping safe

There are some really helpful apps designed to help keep you safe while you’re out and about. Here are some of our favourites:

Safe & the City

Safe and the City screenshot

Safe & the City is a really helpful app for women living in the UK. It has one of the largest community sources of sexual and street harassment incidents. You can report incidents anonymously and pinpoint where the harassment took place to warn other users.

The map also shows safe places and highlights the safest route to your destination. And you can use it to contact emergency contacts.

“Safe & the City sends in-app notifications to remind you when checking directions to also be mindful of your phone being out. We recommend keeping your peripheral view intact, so try to take a step away from others or ask someone to be on the lookout while your attention is elsewhere.

“Safe & the City helps people get from A to B using safety not only speed as your guide. When you use this app, help is only a click away. And you can share any unsafe experiences to help create safer, more inclusive spaces.”

Jillian Kowalchuk, founder and CEO of Safe & the City.

Download Safe & the City from the Apple App Store.

Download Safe & the City from the Google Play Store.


BSafe app

BSafe is one of the most comprehensive safety apps we have tested because it has so many features. Here are some of the things you can do with BSafe:

  • Guardians: You can set up your own social and personal security network of friends and family by saving them as guardians.
  • Fake Call: You can use the app to simulate a fake call to help you get out of unpleasant or threatening situations.
  • Follow Me: Your guardians can follow you home with the Follow Me live GPS tracking. They will be able to see you live via the map on their mobile. Once you have made it home, your guardians will receive a message telling them you got back safe and sound.
  • Voice Activation: You can enable the SOS alarm by touch or voice even if your phone is in your bag or pocket.
  • Live Streaming: When the SOS is activated, your guardians will be able to track your location. They can also see and hear everything that is happening in real-time via the live streaming function.
  • Automatic Recording: When the SOS alarm is activated, your phone will automatically start recording audio and video. The recorded files will then be sent to your guardians.

Download BSafe from the Apple App Store.

Download BSafe from the Google Play Store.


Shake2Safety app

Shake2Safety is an SOS app that allows you to alert your emergency contacts. Share your location and record audio simply by shaking your handset or pressing the power button four times.

This is great because you can discreetly alert your friends and family if you’re in a dangerous situation and share your location without taking your phone out.

Download Shake2Safety from the Google Play Store.

One Scream

One Scream app

One Scream is exactly what it sounds like. Provided you have the app running in the background, it will be activated if someone screams. The app will then sound a siren. You then have 20 seconds to cancel the siren before it sends your phone’s location to your emergency contacts. And if you have an Android phone, it will also call one of your contacts automatically.

Download One Scream from the Apple App Store.

Download One Scream from the Google Play Store.

Category: Guides
Tagged: apps
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