Worst Cell Phone Feature Ever: Key Locked Blackberry 8820 calls 911

On Wednesday night, I traveled to Chapel Hill to get a head start on the drive to CED’s annual Tech Conference. The conference was great, but that is another story. While sitting in a friend’s yard, we were interrupted by the Carrboro police looking for someone who had called 911.

My friend Blake Watters, knew immediately it was him. His Blackberry 8820 has a great feature, it allows your to accidentally call 911 while the phone is locked.  When in key lock mode, you get three options:Blackberry 8820 911

  1. Unlock Phone
  2. Emergency Call
  3. Cancel

I guess some brain trust at RIM decided that instead of accidentally calling your brother or mother-in-law and leaving a garbled message on their voicemail, your phone should be able to accidentally call the police by sitting on your phone.

The best part is that since the 911 dispatcher has access to the triangulation information from the cell towers, they are able to find your withing a couple of hundred feet. The officers were understanding but I could imagine a time when they would not be so interested to learn about the technical reason you made a call to 911.

The crazy thing is, that if you hit a button, before moving the roller ball, it enters a traditional “unlock only” mode, but if you move the trackball first, you get the emergency call option. Basically, they have combined an inconsistent GUI with the ability to make unintentional emergency call.

Intent on to figuring out how this could be disabled, I looked through the demo 8820 AT&T sent me then I called AT&T tech support and they transfered me to Blackberry support, who pointed me to Knowledge Base Article KB12406.

The Emergency Call number is designated by law, and by design the BlackBerry device incorporates this into its functionality. This number cannot be removed or modified.

Short and sweet, no way to disable the feature. Nice job RIM, they recommend you keep it in the included holster that they provide.