Apple's Emergency SOS feature foils attempted sexual assault

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An iPhone owner this week credited Apple's Emergency SOS feature with thwarting a sexual assault attempt in Virginia Beach, Va., an attack that could have turned deadly had police not received the automated alert.

The unnamed woman described her ordeal to CBS affiliate WTKR on Monday.

During the early hours of Sunday a lone stranger approached asking for help in finding his own iPhone, according to the report. The woman, not suspecting danger, agreed to play good Samaritan and was ultimately led to the boardwalk.

"I wasn't suspecting he was bad. He was a very normal, nice looking guy," she said. "I was like, 'Where are your friends? Why are you alone?' He was like, I'm in the military. I'm not from here,' and my brother is in the military — I felt bad for him."

Luring the victim to a secluded area, the unidentified man said he believed the phone was lost in sand. The situation turned sour when the woman attempted to locate the supposedly missing phone with Apple's "Find My" app, an effort that bore no fruit. She became suspicious when the man was unable to navigate Apple's iOS user interface, suggesting he did not, in fact, own an iPhone and had manufactured the lost phone scenario.

"I get my phone back and I turn around and I try to run away and he just comes up from behind me, tackles me, grabs my face, is covering my mouth," the woman said. "I'm trying to scream for help, [he] tackles me to the ground — is like shoving my face to the ground — and now, because I've been screaming, he's holding my mouth even tighter trying to muffle any noise I'm making."

Luckily, Emergency SOS was enabled on the woman's iPhone, allowing her to automatically dial 911 without unlocking the device. In this case, a long press of both the power button and volume down button triggered the feature. Emergency SOS can also be invoked by pressing on the power button five times in rapid succession.

Police were directed to her location by a dispatcher who heard her pleas for help.

"They were originally going to look in the hotels and dispatch updated them that I was talking about the water — I'm begging him not to drown, I don't want to drown — so they knew to come look in the sand," she said.

The attacker fled on foot when police arrived on scene, but was quickly tracked down and apprehended.

"I'm so thankful for those police officers. I know they have a thankless job, and I just can't thank them enough," the woman said.

Apple's Emergency SOS feature debuted on watchOS in 2016 and made its way to iPhone in 2017. With iOS 11, Apple added the ability to alert designated emergency contacts with am automated text message that incorporates current location information.

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