Police forces across the UK have warned that a new feature on some Android phones is plaguing switchboards with inadvertent “silent” 999 calls.
The Emergency SOS feature calls when a side button is pressed repeatedly.
Police chiefs have said they think it is part of the reason for record numbers of 999 calls.
Google, which develops the most widely used Android phone software, says it expects manufacturers to issue updates to address the problem.
The National Police Chiefs Council said the new update “added a new SOS emergency function for devices to call 999 through the power button being pressed five times or more”.
“Nationally, all emergency services are currently experiencing record high 999 call volumes. There’s a few reasons for this, but one we think is having a significant impact is an update to Android smartphones.”
Devon and Cornwall Police said silent calls took 20 minutes to deal with. They urged people who accidentally dialled 999 to stay on the line and tell the operator it was a mistake.
The force told the BBC it had received 169 silent 999 calls between 00:00 and 19:00 BST on Sunday alone.
Police Scotland said BT had reported “a significant increase in accidental calls to 999”.
While the feature was included in Android 12 in 2021, many have reported particular issues since the update to Android 13 last year. Guidance on how to disable the feature can be found on manufacturers’ websites.
The problem is not confined to the UK. At the start of June, the European Emergency Number Association warned that it had been alerted by some of its members to a “surge in automatic false calls originating from Android devices”.
A Google spokesperson told the BBC it was up to manufacturers who choose to offer Emergency SOS on their devices to manage how the feature worked on their phones.
“To help these manufacturers prevent unintentional emergency calls on their devices, Android is providing them with additional guidance and resources,” they said.
“We anticipate device manufacturers will roll out updates to their users that address this issue shortly. Users that continue to experience this issue should switch Emergency SOS off for the next couple of days.”