How iPhone's SOS feature saved a US woman's life and how you can turn it on

The SOS function on an iPhone
Android phones also have an SOS feature that can be activated. Photo credit: Getty Images

A sexual assault survivor has spoken out about her attack for the first time, saying the SOS functionality on her iPhone saved her life.

Kelli Worst from Virginia in the United States told website Wavy she had tried to escape from her attacker twice, but when he pinned her down she decided to use the iPhone feature to get help.

"I still had my phone in my right hand, so I activated the SOS feature by holding the side button and the power button and then swiping across, so from that point on 911 was able to hear everything that was going on," she said.

"My phone in my hand and knowing how to activate the SOS feature is what saved my life."

Android phones also have an SOS feature built in which can be activated in such circumstances.

Worst's nightmare began on the oceanfront of Virginia Beach in late 2019. She and her friends had been on a night out and called Lyfts to come and pick them up.

One of her friends stayed with her until her Lyft arrived but just as she went to enter, Worst was approached by a man.

"As far as she knows, I got into my Lyft, but as I was reaching for the door handle is when this man approached me that looked normal and nice and asked me to help him find his phone," Worst said.

That was 22-year-old Najee Bullock, who said he was in the military and had lost his iPhone. She figured she could help him quickly search for his phone as she felt bad for him. She asked her Lyft driver to wait for her.

Worst became distracted while searching for the iPhone, she said, and Bullock led her onto the sand. She had tried calling the number of the phone but no-one answered. She then tried to use the Find My iPhone app, but saw the number wasn't valid.

"I handed him my phone, and I said, 'You type it in yourself, because you're either not spelling it right, or I'm typing it wrong. Here, you do it," Worst recounted.

"And that's when I finally got a bad feeling, because he was holding my phone and his hand had swiped off the app, and he had no idea how to navigate an iPhone.”

She got the phone back by telling Bullock she would try his number again. She turned and walked away from the man, which is when he then attacked her and pinned her to the ground.

By activating the SOS feature, and giving clues as to where she was, the emergency services were able to narrow down where to find her.

The Virginia Beach Police Department arrived, allowing Worst to make a run for it using the lights from the patrol cars illuminating the area.

Police told her that her clues led them to the beach instead of a nearby hotel they initially believed she had been at.

Bullock later pleaded guilty to abducting Worst and was sentenced to 30 years in prison with 15 years suspended.

How to set up and use the SOS feature on iPhone and Android


By pressing and holding the side button and either of the volume buttons on the iPhone, a slider will appear with 'Emergency SOS' on it, which can be swiped to initiate a call.

Other functions are available and can be turned on by going to Settings and then Emergency SOS.

'Call with Hold' is activated in the same way as the emergency slider. However if you keep holding them, a countdown begins and an alert sounds. When the countdown ends, the iPhone calls emergency services.

'Call with 5 Presses' will start a countdown when the side button is pressed five times in quick succession, with emergency services called when the countdown ends.

Emergency Contacts can also be specified in Health settings. If you activate Emergency SOS, those contacts will be sent a message saying you have called emergency services. The message includes your current location.


Turn on the SOS feature by going to Settings and then tapping on Safety & Emergency.

The SOS feature can then be activated by hitting the power button five times in quick succession.

Your location will be shared with first responders.