All apps to the rescue

A host of smartphone apps on the market promise to come to your rescue in case of an emergency; we put them to the test.

| Updated on: Jan 23 2013, 16:54 IST

The Delhi gang-rape incident put the declining safety of women on India's streets back on the radar. And even as the government, and authorities in charge of law and order debate how best to tackle this menace, we try out some apps already in the market that could work as a short-term solution to the problem.

Compatible with: BlackBerry, Android and iOS
Tested with: BlackBerry
(without GPS)

The app has features like a safety alarm and 'follow me' that can be helpful during an emergency, as details of your present location will be given out to the people you list as your 'guardians'. You can also make a call and send out texts with a tap.

What works:
* Messages are sent to all your guardians the minute you tap the SOS icon.
* You can also call a guardian right away. This is helpful as you can connect with one of your contacts immediately.

What doesn't:
* The app is largely ineffective unless your phone is GPS-enabled. Even though your guardians will know you are in trouble, they won't be able to locate you.
* Is useless in areas with weak network.

Our rating: 3/5

YWCA Alert
Compatible with: Android and iOS
Tested with: iOS (with GPS)

This app has the potential to be a great companion if you ever feel that you're in a potentially risky situation and might need to call in some reinforcements to bail you out with three options — 'safety alert', 'silent alert' and 'call'.

What works:
* The app sends out your precise location if you press the 'safety alert' or shake the phone. We checked this in remote areas, while driving on a highway as well as in crowded places.
* It also sends details to people using the app within 400m around you.

What doesn't:
* Drains the battery to keep the location setting on.
* It depends on people who are using the same app in your area to come to your rescue and, considering not many know about it, it is of little use currently.

Our rating: 3.5/5

Life 360 Family Locator
Compatible with: Android, BlackBerry and iOS
Tested with: Android
(with GPS)

It lets you locate family/ friends who you've added to your emergency list and who can come to your aid. It also sends them alerts about your situation with a hot key to send them an 'I'm safe' or a 'Just checking in' message.

What works:
* A 'panic alert' hot key lets you send an email, text and place a phone call to your emergency contacts.
* A family map lets you track your contacts and, using your phone's GPS, Wi-Fi and data plan, the app keeps updating the location every few minutes. We tested it on the Mumbai-Nashik highway and it worked perfectly.
* It also provides you information about nearby hospitals, police stations, and known offenders.

What doesn't:
* It is a battery-drainer.

Our rating: 4/5

Compatible with: BlackBerry and Android
Tested with: Android (with GPS)

It allows you to list six contacts who you would like to alert if you are in danger. It sends your location to all of them at one go.

What works:
* Since it allows you to list six contacts that can be alerted when you are in trouble, the chances of at least one of them coming to your aid are higher.

What doesn't:
* The app needs some time to start up, so keep that in mind if you are alone and feel you may have to use it.
* It doesn't have too many features.

Our rating: 2/5

SOS Whistle
Compatible with: Android
Tested with: Android (with GPS)

Its function is pretty simple — tapping the screen sets off a shrill whistle that can be heard from a considerable distance. There's also a safety light feature.

What works:
* The whistle is incredibly loud. We tested it from various distances, and it could be heard up to 50 metres away, which is impressive. There's no way it will go unnoticed in any reasonably populated area.

What doesn't:
* Although it takes one gentle tap to activate the whistle, it requires a little more effort to unlock the phone and go to the app. Walking around with it on is an option, but not a feasible one.
* The safety light is handy, but not very powerful.

Our rating: 4/5

ICE Mumbai Police
Compatible with: Android
Tested with: Android
(with GPS)

This informative app enlists emergency numbers and safety tips on what to do when common situations prove dangerous. The SOS option sends out an emergency message with location.

What works:
* On the top right is an SOS button. When touched for a few seconds, it sends out a message to your emergency contacts with your exact location.
* The tips and precautions mentioned in the 'in case of emergency' tab are helpful.
* While it sends the message, it also plays a loud siren for 30 seconds. Remember not to keep your ear phones plugged, because then the siren will leave you feeling momentarily deaf.

What doesn't:
* The fact that the app is not compatible with other mobile operating systems limits its reach.
* If you've forgotten to leave your GPS on, then the emergency message doesn't go out at all.

Our rating: 4/5

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First Published Date: 23 Jan, 16:46 IST
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