On my Samsung Galaxy SIII, when I go to Contacts -> Groups there is a special stock group called ICE - emergency contacts. I have looked for the meaning of ICE on Wikipedia but was not able to find a definition that pertains to mobile phones or contacts. So I would like to ask the following questions:

  1. What does ICE stand for (and what is ICE)?

  2. What is the purpose of the ICE - emergency contacts group. According to this post, on the Samsung Galaxy S4 this creates special buttons on the Phone app's Keypad tab, but after adding the emergency contacts on my Samsung Galaxy SIII I don't get any extra buttons on the dialler.

Here are the screenshot of the Contacts -> Groups screen displaying the ICE - emergency contacts and the unaffected phone dialler once the emergency contacts have been added.

Contacts -> Groups -> ICE - emergency contacts Phone Dialer
Click for full size


EDIT: In the screenshot above the emergency contacts may not be showing up because the dialer is the regular dialer invoked from the Phone application's Keypad tab. When the lock screen asks you to enter a PIN number, the lock screen also displays a message saying SIM card is locked - Emergency calls only, and below that the user can click on the text Emergency call to bring up the Emergency dialer application which looks similar but is a separate application as shown below:

Lock Screen Asking for SIM Card PIN Emergency Dialer (network not available)

As the picture on the right shows, once I click the button on the lower-left hand side of the emergency dialer, even though I have Mobile Network Data enabled as shown below, given that I did not top-up my phone, I get the "Unable to call personal emergency contact. Network not available." message. I'm not sure whether that was supposed to bring up a list of my ICE contacts. Perhaps someone can verify this for me.

Mobile Data Enabled

As far as I understand, this means that even if I find myself in an emergency situation, if I haven't topped up my phone then I will still be unable to call my emergency contacts, although perhaps one can still call some other numbers such as 911 or their equivalents overseas, whatever those may be. I haven't tried this, because I don't want to bother anyone with a purposeless call, but would like to know if such numbers work even when the phone hasn't been topped up.

Once the PIN number has been entered, the lock screen on my phone changes to the following and it is not possible to access the emergency dialer application:

Swipe to unlock



I've now topped up my phone and was able to figure out the following: even when the phone has credit with the network operator, if the phone has just been booted then by default the PIN number will have to be entered to unlock the SIM card at the "Enter PIN to unlock SIM card" message, otherwise it will still not be possible for anyone to access the numbers in the ICE contact list. For as long as the SIM card lock feature is enabled, which I believe it is by default, and the SIM card is locked, the only numbers that can be dialed from the Emergency dialer screen are 911/112-type calls. It is possible to disable SIM card lock in Settings -> More -> Security -> SIM card lock -> Set up SIM card lock -> Lock SIM card [ ].

There is also a separate PIN that can be enabled in Settings -> My device -> Lock screen -> Screen security -> Screen lock -> PIN (Medium to high security). When this setting is enabled (by default the Screen lock feature is set to Swipe (No security)), the device owner needs to enter the SIM card's PIN at the "Enter PIN to unlock SIM card" message once the device boots, if the feature is enabled, followed by the screen lock PIN at the "Enter unlock PIN" message, and, every time the phone goes blank, to access the Home screen the screen lock PIN needs to be entered again.

Only once the SIM card is in an unlocked state can calls to members of the ICE list be carried out in addition to 911/112-type numbers. The "Emergency dialer" can be accessed from both the SIM unlock screen, in which case pressing the "person with ambulance light" button in the lower-left hand corner displays the message "Unable to call personal emergency contact, as well as from the screen unlock screen, in which case "person with ambulance light" button in the lower-left hand corner displays the list of ICE emergency contacts which can be reached.


  • 1
    Are you using the "Emergency Dialer" in your second screenshot? As in, the one that should be reachable from the "Emergency Call" button on your lock screen. Perhaps it only shows the ICE contacts if you open the dialer via that entry point. The wording of the other question you've linked to seems to imply that may be the case. Dec 3, 2014 at 19:59
  • Thanks. The dialer I was looking at was not the emergency dialer. I have updated my post with further screenshots. However I was not able to verify the following: 1. is it still possible to dial 911 and other emergency numbers from a phone that hasn't been topped up? 2. From the emergency dialer, does tapping the button in the lower-left hand corner bring up the list of ICE emergency contacts? 3. What does ICE stand for? Thanks. Dec 3, 2014 at 21:53
  • I've found the following Wikipedia article useful. Apparently ICE stands for "In Case of Emergency". However, I thought it would be reasonable to be able to make at least a collect call from the ICE list in the case where a topup/refill has not been effected. Regards. Dec 3, 2014 at 22:12

1 Answer 1


ICE is short for In Case of Emergency

  • Thanks. I think though, what was confusing me, is that there are two types of emergencies which one may run into. The first is a medical emergency where the user has, say, passed out, and ICE contacts provide a way for others to reach those who need to be informed about it. In this case the data network needs to active (the user must have paid to top up the phone) and it is others who need to bypass the lock screen using the ICE feature. Dec 4, 2014 at 13:54
  • In the second case, the user may not have passed out but may find themselves in a dangerous situation. In this case, presumably, even if the user has not paid for service (topped up their phone), the user may still be able to use the dialer to dial 991 in North America or another number such as 112 in Europe. Regards. Dec 4, 2014 at 13:56
  • You need to expand on this to be really useful, especially since OP already found the meaning of it.
    – Peanut
    Dec 4, 2014 at 23:26
  • @John Sanderson The North American emergency services number is 911.
    – K7AAY
    Mar 21, 2016 at 11:42

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