My mobile phone has an SOS button for emergencies and can call people. What’s the difference between the My SOS Family app and a mobile phone with an SOS button?

We actually recommend these phones
There are some fantastic phones on the market, like the Doro range of phones and many others. We have reviewed a number of these and recommend them and others that have an SOS button on the front or back. They are simple to use, have big buttons and the SOS button is a great, must-have feature. We even show in our video on how our system works that the My SOS Family OneTouch Alert system complements and enhances the features of these phones.

These are the links to our reviews and we also list some of these such as Doro, Denver, TTfone and Amplicomms phones with SOS buttons and where to get them for the best price: Which are the best mobile phones with big buttons and SoS? Please refer also to the different pages within our News section for reviews of specific phones.

Phones with SOS are better than the most basic phones, but are not as sophisticated as a smartphone.

How does the SOS button phone work?
The SOS button is really a fast-dial trigger. All basic mobile phones, as well as home cordless phones, allow any of the number keys “1 to 9” and “0” to become fast-dial numbers. Each number is assigned to one of the contacts in the phone so when they are long pressed they will call (fast-dial) that contact’s phone number. Some phones allow a predefined message to be sent too.

The difference between a basic phone’s fast-dial function and a dedicated SOS button fast-dial is that the basic phone can only call one contact, whereas an SOS button phone will allow a number of emergency contacts to be added.

When the SOS button is pressed the phone starts calling the first contact. If the call gets through to one contact, that person has to press a number on their phone such as “1” to indicate they are a physical person. That way, if the call goes through to voicemail and the button “1” isn’t pressed, the phone then calls the next contact. The phone then continues to call each one from the list one-by-one until one of the contacts answers.

Limitations of SOS button phones
If cost is a key factor, we would recommend that an SOS button phone is sufficient and can save hundreds of pounds annually when compared to an alarm pendant connected to a monitored call centre service. However there will be limitations:

  • The number of emergency contacts is limited;
  • You are limited to making phone calls and, with the higher priced models, SMS messages;
  • The phone can only call one contact at a time, which can be slow, especially if calls are directed to voicemail;
  • There is the risk that a PAYG phone may run out of credit;
  • The phone battery may run out while it’s making calls unless it is charged regularly;
  • If someone has up a missed call and tries to call the phone, it may be prevented from receiving calls while it is attempting to reach one of the emergency contacts;
  • When one contact is dealing with a call, all the other emergency contacts who also received the call (voicemail or missed) will now know what is happening and may duplicate duties;
  • The phone has to be connected between the caller and the emergency contact and only then the reason for the emergency can be talked about;
  • As each call is missed the user becomes more stressed and also as the phone is busy calling out, the user can become confused. In this stressful situation they may call the emergency services 911/999/0000/112;
  • If one of the emergency contacts is at work with their personal mobile in an office building either where mobile calls are not allowed or where there is a poor phone signal, and their work number is an automated switchboard requiring extension numbers to be input, an SOS phone may not be useful in such circumstances.

How does My SOS Family complement and enhance SOS button phones?

Set-up takes less than 5 minutes
You program the SOS button to call one number, which means that even the most simple SOS button phones can be used. We give you this number when you register - it’s your “voice alert number” (personal emergency contact number). In most countries like the UK, the phone number we provide is a Freephone number (toll free) which means it’s free to call and does not use your phone’s credit so PAYG customers who run out of credit can still make the call. Or it’s a local line number which means it’s cheap to call.

You add all your emergency SOS contact details, which takes a few seconds for each one, and you're ready.

What happens when you press the SOS button with My SOS Family
When you press the SOS button (or the fast-dial button on a basic phone) it calls your “voice alert number”. We know that the caller may be distressed, so our auto attendant immediately asks the caller: “Please leave your location and your message and press #hash key when finished”. Then we start recording your voice message. Don’t worry about not remembering to press # when the message is finished as our Auto attendant listens and if she can’t hear anything, or after a maximum of 25 seconds time, whichever comes first, she hangs up. The phone is now completely free to make or receive other calls.

If you're using the My SOS Family App, then we trigger your alert either by using data (via the app button) or as an automatic backup method we switch to SMS if your phone’s data signal is poor or switched off. You can also use voice instruction like Siri or OK Google to trigger the alarm by making a call or triggering the SOS button.

Your personal account then has the recording and location and we start contacting your unlimited emergency contacts to tell them you need help.

Why is unlimited contacts important?
When you register for our “free trial” you add an unlimited number of contacts. They can be multiple emails, mobile phone numbers to receive SMS messages and either mobile or landline numbers to receive phone calls. You can also add extension numbers for landlines that require extension numbers due to automated switchboards.

A great example of why unlimited contacts works is that you can duplicate contacts. For example let’s imagine the user has a son called “Trevor” he doesn’t live with you, he works and has a work mobile, a work landline number, a personal mobile/number and a home phone, a work email and a personal email.

Trevor can be added/duplicated 3 times (as 3 contacts)
1) First Trevor – add his personal mobile and personal email and work email to receive alerts by email, SMS and phone call, 24 hours a day.
2) Second Trevor – add his work mobile number and work landline with extension numbers to be alerted by phone calls and SMS messages between 9am and 6pm only.
3) Third Trevor – add his home landline number to be called only between 7pm and 8am when he is at home.

My SOS Family Automated Emergency Contact system

Think of My SOS Family as an automated emergency contact system - but instead of calling contacts one by one, it calls all contacts simultaneously, by email, phone call, phone call including using extension number, and by SMS message.

We do not rely on your phone, or use your mobile network plan to alert your emergency contacts. Instead we use a secure dedicated fully automated emergency contact system which sits outside of your phone.

Our secure system manages the whole emergency alert process. It sends & receives SMS messages, sends emails, makes emergency telephone calls back and forth to all your “unlimited” SOS Family network, keeping them all updated.

We’re also fanatical about security & reliability. We pay for our system to be managed with the same provider that manages systems for the Government Sector, like the defence industry & emergency ambulance service and operates worldwide.

We are members of and adhere to the high standards and rules of conduct of the leading industry body on telephone-enabled care systems.

My SOS Family Monitoring system versus a monitored call centre
The real comparison we believe is between our fully automated customised MY SOS Family emergency contact system and a monitored call centre.

We recommend you read the comprehensive answer to our customers who ask this question: My SOS Family Automated Emergency contacts system versus a Manned Monitoring Call Centre Operator.