This week Apple is hosting its annual developers conference in San Francisco and, as expected, the keynote was full of announcements. I’ll skip the hardware and software announcements of the “this is our best one ever” variety and go right to what I thought was one of the more thoughtful and unique products announced: SOS on Watch.
I’ve been waiting to see watch apps (in both Apple and Android) that were truly designed for a watch, don’t serve as an extension of a phone app, are not just smarter notifications, and truly fit watch UI models. The SOS is one of those apps. It addresses a situation women often face: walking alone and feeling insecure. In such situations, I usually have my phone in my hand, on, with my finger on a quick-dial shortcut. This requires preparation and there are moments when I have to make sure that the phone is still on, especially when I’m alone for longer than expected. Apple created a feature on the Watch that does that in a smarter way and requires no preparation.
The way it works is simple: it’s activated when the users presses and holds down the side button. The app then counts down a few seconds, indicates that it’s dialling 911 or the equivalent local emergency service based on the user’s location, and connects to a live call. The call is routed via the iPhone if connected or over Wi-Fi. It also notifies a set of emergency contacts and includes a map with the caller’s location with that notification. After the call, the Watch shows the user’s medical ID.
The only things I’d change are regarding the countdown and the contact list. For the countdown, can the user adjust the number of seconds or perhaps press the side button again to skip it to call 911 right away? I do like that once the process is started, it no longer requires intervention to be completed but in stressful situations, it helps to be able to skip the wait. Regarding the contact list, can users specify who to contact first? Can the app contact physically closer contacts if it knows where they are, even if they are not defined as emergency contacts?
As this app was probably designed with hypothetical typical use cases, experience and feedback will undoubtedly help improve and refine it, but I think it shows a deep understanding of the use case and the user. Well done, Apple.