A new Apple iPhone update will activate wireless emergency alerts (WEA) and presidential updates by default on your iPhone 4S and iPhone 5. AT&T announced that all their customers will receive the update and it will be turned on by default.
Wireless Emergency Alerts
Claiming that it is mandated by law as part of the FCC’s CMAS program, the emergency alerts are meant to inform and alert mobile users to potential emergency situations and get the text message across with a characteristic beep through a different technology, even bypassing congested mobile networks.
There are 3 types of alerts that they can push to your iPhone.
- Presidential Alerts – issued by the President
- Imminent Threat Alerts – informing of potential disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados etc
- AMBER Alerts– to help search for or locate abducted children.
When AT&T pushes the settings to your iPhone, which currently requires iOS 6.1 or higher, you will get a message titled “Carrier Settings Update“. They note that no data or messaging charges will apply for the update or messages in future. Note that users cannot turn off Presidential emergency updates, but can disable other Wireless emergency alerts at Settings >Notifications>Turn On/Off.
Indeed this seems a great way to push messages across millions of WEA-ready smartphones instantly, providing a faster and more efficient way to get the emergency message across. Since the update will be compulsorily pushed to all phones, and as presidential messages cannot be turned off, it ensures the government will be able to alert a large affected population much faster and will improve safety and security for users.
More information on WEA alerts