Why do mobile phones accidentally call the emergency services?

A rant today, having just found my mobile phone for the umpteenth time with a message “Are you sure you want to call the emergency services?”. To make it worse, I get two buttons YES and NO – they are different colours but no indication of which colour is the currently active button.

I had my first chunky mobile many years ago, back in the days when they just made telephone calls. This had an extendible earpiece which disabled the keyboard when it was in the shut position. Even this one had the problem even when disabled, it still accepted the emergency numbers. First, I discovered that the “1″ and “9″ key did not disable, eventually realising that this was intentional, I eventually discovered that this was a standard feature on a mobile phone! Why?

It could be argued that someone trying to call the emergency services may not know how to get the mobile out of the keyboard lock mode – however every mobile I have seen tells you what keys to press.

My conclusion

I can only conclude that this is a decision made at a meeting. Someone came up with an inspirational flash “Lets solve this problem!!”, although no problem actually existed. Rejecting the idea was impossible – everyone knew it was a bad idea but how can they say “lets prevent our users calling the emergency services”. So when the mobile phone developers were given the specification, they knew it would be a bad idea, but had to do it because they specification had already been decided.

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