Look-out ICE iPhone Lock-out! A design proposal for easily reaching loved ones ‘In Case of Emergency’

Since the London 7/7 bombings in 2005 I have had an ICE number on my mobile phone. This is a widely recognised number to ring ‘In Case of an Emergency’. I hadn’t heard of this practice before but thought it was a great idea. If you have an accident, and are unable to contact someone yourself, then someone can locate and ring this number on your phone. Nearly everyone has a mobile phone nowadays and so in terms of identifying someone or letting a loved one know this seems like a great idea.

It was only the other day that my girlfriend pointed out that this was next to useless. I have my iPhone password protected for security reasons. So if anyone steals or picks up my phone then they can’t access any information on it – great eh? Well, not so great if they want to access the ICE number!

So there is a conflict here between the safety requirements of being able to access needed information in an emergency, and keeping the iPhone’s information secure when the main user is not the person accessing it the information.

There is a solution, and it’s not too dissimilar to the iPhone’s ability to allow someone to make an emergency call without knowing the security code for the phone. Why can’t there also be an ICE number at this level? So someone picking up the phone can make an emergency call not only to the emergency services but also to an emergency ICE number that is set by the user. This could let people call a loved one if an accident has happened, but still keep the iPhone secure.

iPhone password screen

There are other benefits to this idea too:

  1. At the moment ICE numbers are a workaround, i.e. the iPhone does not officially support this functionality and someone came up with the idea of creating this number and putting it as ICE in the contacts. If the designer’s of iPhones design this feature in then it’d presumably be more widespread and easier to use too!
  2. This number could come in handy outside of emergency cases: ever left your phone in a cafe, a cab or somewhere else? What can the person who finds it do with it if it is password protected – not alot eh? With this number people would know exactly who to contact – they could contact your ICE contact, or a forgotten number (no good calling your own number of course 😉 ).

I think this is a great idea, and like all great ideas others seem to have thought of it too (damn!). After drafting this blog I have seen the lock out issue is referred to here.  So if this idea is known then why hasn’t it been implemented?? This issue has been brought up on Apple’s forums too. Even if people have thought of this before me then it is still worth talking about and drawing attention too. I would expect something to be on this page after someone has pressed the emergency call button on the password screen:

iPhone emergency call screen

Here is another enlightening blog around these issues that I’ve outlined above with some inventive processes and workarounds. A seemingly easier and more practical invention to solve these issues is to stick an ICE sticker on your phone. To me the need for these inventive workarounds should dissolve away if the designers actively designed in these features.


4 responses to this post.

  1. I always assumed that police or someone can by pass PIN to access ICE number. No actual idea how they would do it. Perhaps wishful thinking


  2. You can have your emergency contact details printed on a case at the website below. That way even if your battery is dead, phone locked, or even sometimes if the phone is damaged your contact details are still visible.



  3. Posted by Benjamin Briggs on January 25, 2014 at 10:30 am

    All you have to do is hold the function key to activate Siri and as long as your ICE contacts start with ICE when you ask him for “contacts ICE” the numbers will be displayed on the lock screen.


    • This is a great tip, and good for people in the know. However, arguably there should be something that is more obvious for people that don’t how to do this already. It’s also not obvious how you would learn it either, besides someone who does know how to do it telling you, or doing an internet search and coming across your post.

      Thanks for sharing this, I had no idea you could access your contacts in this way. I’ll probably use it to contact other people on my phone when it is locked rather than unlocking it, going to contacts, finding them, etc. which is much more laborious.


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