Add emergency-contact info to your iPhone lock screen

A simple tweak to your existing wallpaper might just save your life -- or at least help recover a lost phone.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

There are apps (like ICE, shown here) that can quickly add emergency info to your lock screen. MinuteApps LLC

The reason we password-protect our phones is simple: If it gets stolen, the thief can't access all our data. But there's a flipside: If your phone is lost, or you've been injured and someone is trying to call your family, there's no way to access your ICE (In Case of Emergency) info.

This thought occurred to me recently while jogging: What if I keeled over or got sideswiped by a car? Whoever found me would also find my phone, but wouldn't know who to call on my behalf. That's because my phone is locked.

The simple fix? Add some ICE to your lock screen -- specifically, to the wallpaper that appears when you tap a button. For this tutorial, I'm focusing on iPhones, but there are virtually identical tools and/or methods available for Android and Windows Phone.

I'm also going to proceed with the assumption that you already have a lock-screen image you like -- a photo of the kids, the dog, your spouse, etc. -- and want to modify it.

Over is a good app for adding ICE info to your lock-screen wallpaper. Potluck

For a fast and easy solution, it's hard to beat ICE (In Case of Emergency), a $1.99 app that, among other things, adds emergency info (your name, any medical conditions, an emergency contact, etc.) to your lock screen. And it does so using a transparent overlay that still allows you to see the image underneath.

However, if you prefer a free, DIY option that gives you control over what info goes where, I recommend Over (iOS).

This app's sole purpose is to add text to your photos, and it provides a wide range of fonts, colors, orientations, and so on. Here's how to get ICE-y with it:

Step one: Install and run the app.

Step two: Find your current lock-screen photo from the library, tap it, and then tap Add Text.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step three: Now type your text, keeping in mind you'll be able to modify the look and location later. I recommend short emergency-contact info like: "ICE: Jane Smith 248-555-1234." You can also choose a color from the accompanying selector, ideally something that will contrast well against your backdrop.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step four: Tap Done, then put your finger on the text and drag it to roughly the area you want it. Now swipe from the right to bring up Over's tools, then choose Edit. Here you can modify the size of the text, but don't shrink it so much that a casual viewer will overlook it.

One important tip: Make sure to place the text somewhere it won't be obscured by the time, date, slide-to-unlock bar, or any other lock-screen elements. I recommend aiming for just under the date/time block, but fiddle with the placement until you find something you like. And you can turn your screen off and back on during on the editing process for instant cues as to what location(s) might work.

Step five: When you're done, swipe the tool wheel out again and then tap Save. Don't worry -- Over will preserve your original image while saving this modified one to your Camera Roll.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step six: Open the Photos app, navigate to Camera Roll, tap your new lock-screen image, and then tap the Options icon in the lower-left corner. Swipe the bottom row to the left and choose Use as Wallpaper. Then just follow the usual last couple steps to save as your lock screen.

In the end, you keep your prized lock-screen photo, but adorn it with a crucial piece of information. Sounds like a win-win!