When women are in danger, can these apps save lives?

Late at night, in a dark alleyway, with footsteps approaching behind you, you subconsciously clenched the brick in your hand… Oh no, your phone.

Open the mobile app page, which one can save your life?

Self-defense applications are a market born from “fear”. There are various products, but they are rarely seen in actual situations. What is the problem? We asked two friends, product manager Rabbit and gender researcher Lean, to do a review of this type of app with them.

Locate shared classes:

Is constant monitoring the security I want?

When searching for “women”, “safety” and “walking at night” in the app store, the most results are the software that focuses on positioning.

Some also carry suspicious keywords, such as “check posts” and “remote places”. There are many advertisements for this kind of software on short video platforms, but the selling point is almost always “catch the object and cheat”.

Under this category, we chose an app called “Always Guardian”. After opening, just like navigation software, it is a full-screen map. To use, you need to set up emergency contacts in advance. After enabling the location permission, your location will appear on the other party’s app page.


Always guard the page demo, the help button is located in the + sign at the bottom | Mobile phone screenshot


  • Timed help function: within a set time period, ask friends for help, after the end, the initiator does not take the initiative to turn it off, and the person being asked for help can notice the difference


The person being helped will receive a reminder | Screenshot of the mobile phone


  • There is a 5-second advertisement on the screen (fatal disadvantage, wait 5 seconds, I might have been killed! Accidentally touch or shake the phone will jump to the app store)

  • “Always locate” permission is required, otherwise it won’t work. At this time, whether you open the software or not, friends can see your location unless actively blocked

  • Except for location sharing and help, the rest are paid functions

  • The entrance for help is deep, and at least 3 actions are required to ask for help in case of emergencies, and the buttons are very small. You can only operate correctly when you can see the screen calmly and clearly.

  • Siren volume depends on phone settings and cannot be automatically adjusted to maximum volume


Open screen advertisement | Mobile phone screen shot


Rabbit : The best part of this software is to guide payment. But when you’re looking for some really useful features, like adding widgets to the desktop, it’s quite hidden. Many software in the iPhone system, long press will appear some function entry, it does not do any of them.

Splash ads are also annoying. I just opened Pinduoduo, maybe I haven’t been saved yet, I have already placed two orders.

From the product manager’s point of view, if you choose the “always on” positioning, it is optimal to collect the information needed for his product iteration. But it consumes more power, and it’s not friendly to a woman who cares about privacy but wants to use related functions, because she may need to constantly switch that permission on and off.

Pian Pian : It’s hard for me to imagine that in reality, who would want to share their position all the time, except for a specific time and a specific scene, such as a night walk or a taxi in the middle of the night. But the function of asking for help at regular intervals is ok, which is what I use when I feel very insecure.

all in all

Positioning sharing is useful in limited scenarios, but it should be initiated and shared by the seeker, and both information collection and sharing are limited to the time period when the seeker wants to seek help, and it should be terminated immediately after the end.

In 2016, scholars from the University of Colorado Denver studied such security applications of location tracking and found that there are many potential negative effects.

It promotes a view that privacy should be sacrificed for increased security, and encourages the normalization of surveillance ; especially in relationships where power is inherently unequal, such as where domestic violence is a problem, it is likely to worsen the status quo; Constant tracking can also lead to anxiety and excessive stress, and the inability to locate a loved one can cause even more anxiety when users turn off GPS positioning or experience network instability.

Emergency SOS:

Can your cry for help be heard?

When it comes to calling for help, the main use of a mobile phone is to dial 110.

But sometimes you don’t know your specific location, or you can’t speak, so some apps have developed a one-key call for help function, and send live information such as location at the same time.

For example, this app called “The Great Soldier”. There are two modes of its one-click help, video shock and silent help. In both modes, live audio, video and photos will be recorded and uploaded, and sent to the set emergency contacts. At the same time, users who are using the app will also see the help information you sent in the “surrounding events” column. .


Demonstration of Dawei video shock mode, the front camera in the red frame in the lower right corner starts shooting in real time | Mobile phone screenshot


  • There is no charge function, all can be used directly

  • Able to conduct on-site forensics and silently ask for help (but the camera and microphone permissions must be enabled in advance)


  • It has been in disrepair for a long time. Clicking “discover” in the middle of the bottom of the page will trigger a one-click flashback.

  • The function is too limited. Although it pointed out the option of cooperation with the security force, it did not tell whether there are any partners and who there are.

  • Collecting help information requires the person to be calm and awake, because the front camera is used, and the photographer does not know what he has captured.

  • Automatic upload of help information is irreversible and cannot be withdrawn


The boot screen when the big soldier is turned on for the first time | mobile phone screenshot


Rabbit : The application scenario envisaged by this software is after the incident, for example, I really encountered a gangster or a bad person’s means of help. But its function implementation is extremely dependent on offline.

One is whether there are enough users around. Even if there is, will they be willing to help you when they see it? If it is like Tangshan, so many people can’t stop it, and it is useless; the second is whether it can be connected to the public security alarm system, which is very important Conditions, the function of forensics is very meaningful, but these are some things that will only be used in the case-handling process. These are things that are difficult for a software to solve, and come from the social level.

Pian Pian : Life and death are sometimes more hopeful if one more person knows about it, so I really like the function of asking for help. But pay attention to privacy, I will worry about my hand slipping, and I may take out a very private thing at home with one hand swipe.

all in all

SOS software usually has a very specific imagining of the scenario for help, but the realization of the function is highly dependent on offline or third parties, which may be difficult to achieve, and cannot bring the effect beyond the telephone or SMS alarm.

At the same time, in a real critical juncture, complex functional settings are difficult to really use. Guangxi Normal University concluded in a study on the design of women’s travel defense products that in the face of danger, people may show explicit manifestations such as calling for help, screaming, and partial stiffness of the limbs, as well as hidden manifestations, such as heartbeat, breathing, blood Abnormal oxygen saturation.

This greatly reduces a person’s ability to judge and act.

Mock class:

Is it safe to have a man with me?

Simulated incoming calls and simulated voices are also popular security app functions. The core idea is to “pretend to be someone around you”.

In this category, we select the “360 Mobile Guard” evaluation. In 2020, the 360 ​​Online Women’s Safety Guard Center, which once focused on mobile phone safety, integrated multiple functions such as emergency help, simulated voice/call, virtual alarm, itinerary sharing, and safety tips.

Click on the fake call, and you will immediately receive a call marked “Dear”. In the security guard voice package, there will also be corresponding male recordings for responses in scenarios such as receiving a courier or someone knocking on the door.

The introduction of this software in the app store is – “24-hour boyfriend-style guarding you”.


360 mobile phone guard function, analog voice and permission management page丨Mobile phone screenshot


  • It will clearly indicate which permissions are required, and there is an entry in the app to manage permissions uniformly

  • The function guide is clear and easy to use

  • The functions are concentrated, such as the scene of walking at night, which integrates functions such as flashlight, alarm, nearby police station, and travel safety tips.

  • The sound of the analog function is more realistic, and there is a dialogue when simulating an incoming call

  • The function is clear at a glance, not hidden deeply

  • When initiating emergency assistance, the emergency contact will be notified of the caller’s details by SMS, and a link will be attached to jump directly to the details page without additional app download


  • Difficult to find using keywords related to women’s safety

  • Small emergency help entrance and small icons


Rabbit : I often walk at night, and I pay close attention to the functions of the nearby police station. If I encounter danger, at least I know which direction to run. The combination of the flashlight and the map is also good, there is no need to open one and then open the second.

Elegant : The product as a whole emphasizes the importance of not being single, and will involve some value judgments, which may strengthen the public’s impression that women are in a disadvantaged position.

The analog call function is also a bit tasteless. If it is really dangerous, why not just run or make a call, but use an analog phone. This function is more suitable for use on a blind date.


360 Mobile Guard’s fake call function|Mobile phone screenshot

all in all

Simulation products, or women’s safety products in general, may need to think a little more about “whether to deepen restrictions and prejudice against women”.

The above-mentioned design research of Guangxi Normal University also pointed out that some “tips” for women’s safe travel in society, such as “don’t go out to drink alone”, “don’t walk alone at night”, etc., are not actually from the perspective of women. On the contrary, it restricts women’s lives, transfers the responsibility of avoiding danger to women , and reinforces the unequal status quo of the social structure of the sexes.

And a study from Global Perspectives also found that safety apps tend to limit women’s desire to hang out. By recommending safe travel routes and constantly prescribing parameters that women need to keep in mind when out and about, the space women can access is narrowed. It enhances the fear of being beaten and reduces the pleasure of wandering.

iPhone emergency contact:

Is it better than the one that comes with your phone?

In fact, many mobile phones are equipped with emergency services themselves. Compared to opening an app, most of these built-in functions only require a few keystrokes to wake up.

We tested the emergency contact function that comes with the iPhone. After continuously pressing and holding the side button, or pressing the side button five times quickly, the service starts, the iPhone starts the countdown, and plays a loud warning sound (the warning sound can also be set to off) . After 8 seconds, it will give you the option to dial 110, 119 or 120. After the emergency call ends, your iPhone will text your emergency contacts to let you know that you are using emergency services and your location.

Emergency contacts need to be set up in advance.


iPhone Emergency Contact Countdown|Mobile Screenshot


  • Simple, no need to turn on the phone to wake up

  • The operation is reversible, and the call can be canceled when the countdown is over

  • Will actively remind to stop location sharing


  • The emergency call is divided into two steps, first the default call to the public agency, and then the emergency contact

  • Still need to manually select the call object, not fully automatic


Rabbit : It can’t be completely blind, but it’s relatively easy to use, and it can also be clicked with some muscle memory.

Pleasantly : Compared with other products, most of the emergency contacts only have the definitions of lovers, family members and friends. The iPhone has a lot of choices for the relationship of emergency contacts, and there is a direct “emergency contact” option, showing that the “relationship” “Inclusion .


Definition of relationship in iPhone emergency service, settings page, and text messages sent in emergency situations|Mobile phone screenshot

all in all

In an emergency, the user needs to fully respond to the dangerous emergency, and it is difficult to be distracted to operate the product. Selecting a simple-to-operate button is more in line with the current scene. However, at present, most third-party developed products are limited by the permissions of the mobile phone buttons, and most of them can do this with their own functions.

And phones are getting smoother.

Anti-theft and anti-candid photography category:

The ideal is beautiful, the reality is skinny

In addition, there are some solutions that sound like good ideas, such as “hotel guards”, which detect hidden cameras in rooms, and Iantitheft, which will call the police when it detects that the earphone cable is suddenly unplugged.

But during the testing process, they were either ineffective (see the picture below), or there was no usage scenario – what do you ask wireless headset users to do?


During the test, the software did not scan the huge camera in front of me |

The dangers of women, can the app store know about it?

Some researchers selected 20 cases in which women were killed while traveling from July 2016 to February 2020 from the news and China Judgment Documents Network. The analysis found that only in travel scenarios, women were killed in a variety of situations.

Acquaintances such as classmates, friends, partners, etc. will all be victims, but more are strangers such as drivers, passers-by, people who happen to be in the same restaurant/bus/hotel; night is a high-incidence period, but there are also 7 cases. Violence occurred during the day and 1 in the evening.

Contrary to popular impressions, 14 of the 20 incidents occurred in open places, such as streets, communities, parks, tourist attractions, and downtown areas. Instead, public places were the places where the most violent incidents occurred. Mainly include robbery, rape, murder, abuse, beating, kicking, slashing and so on.

Of the 20 incidents, 7 of the female victims resulted in death, accounting for nearly half.

This is only the statistics in the single scenario of travel. According to the UN Women report, the types of violence against women include domestic violence (including economic violence, psychological violence, emotional violence, and physical violence), femicide, sexual violence, human trafficking, child marriage, and cyber violence. type.

However, in an environment where dangerous events can occur almost anytime, anywhere, women who want to use apps to enhance a sense of security are largely stuck on the initial step of “how to find”.

Because there are no keywords available.

In the App Store, we try keywords such as self-defense, night road, female safety, personal safety, travel safety, female, single, etc. In addition to “travel safety”, you can find some positioning and camera detection applications, and “personal safety” can Except for a location tracking app, almost all other keywords lead to contraception, menstrual period calculation, video and other applications that have nothing to do with women’s safety.

Especially when only “women” or “single” are used as keywords, dating products appear . When searching for “violence”, all that appear are games.

The few remaining female safety apps, mostly from individual developers, are updated less frequently, and some are no longer maintained. Some apps that are highly discussed on the Internet, such as those released in 2015, claiming to be “the first domestic self-defense software to protect Chinese people’s travel at night” and “scared”, are currently unavailable in the app store.


The following is a summary of the needs of this evaluation. If you have plans to use/develop such an app, please refer to it.

  • Make products easy to find in the app store

  • The operation is simple and direct, don’t hide

  • If it’s an emergency, don’t advertise too much

  • Function guide is clear

  • Clearly tell which permissions are required and can be revoked

  • Operation is reversible

But then again, is it safe for women to install so many apps?


[1] Hasinoff A A. Where are you? Location tracking and the promise of child safety[J]. Television & New Media, 2017, 18(6): 496-512.

[2] Xu Wei. Research on women’s travel defense product design based on safety needs [D]. Guangxi Normal University, 2020. DOI: 10.27036/d.cnki.ggxsu.2020.000142.

[3] Wang Mingyue. Research on the prevention of female murders in the context of online social networking—taking the murder of women seeing netizens as an example [J]. Knowledge Economy, 2015 (14): 43-44.

[4] Frequently asked questions: Types of violence against women and girls


[5] Das K. Digital ‘Lakshman Rekhas’: Understanding the Impact of Safety Apps on Women’s Freedom of Movement in Urban Spaces[J]. Global Perspectives, 2021, 2(1): 25608.

Author: Weng Yang, Rui Yue

Edit: Lying Worm


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