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The Japanese version of iOS 5, Apple's latest mobile OS, will let you know if an earthquake is coming a good minute or two before it hits. Such functionality is common in natively produced handsets, but imported brands have been slow to integrate the warnings which use a standardised tone and go off even if the phone has been …

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Useful feature...?

...or cynical marketing ploy?

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Good idea

Similar notifications are already issued on Japanese TV and radio, so yes, this is a good idea.

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Boffin

Not just TV and radio, apps already for Android, PC, Mac and online

Earthquake and tsunami warning systems apps abound for most platforms in Japan.

Here is an example of its sophistication:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQVPfQu50yY

It is lifesaving if you watched any videos during the Mar11 you would have seen the incoming sound warnings linked to public systems and people acting fast on it. You can hear it in the background here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHA-xVhcN3o

Android phones have 57% market share in Japan and have had these apps well before the Mar11 earthquakes.

So, an iPhone app is well and truly playing catchup ...

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Anonymous Coward

Probably not iPhone 5 only as the title suggests...

iOS 5 runs on all iPhones from the 3GS.

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Mushroom

Android already has it

Actually, probably iPhone, too, but I haven't checked. The free app I downloaded for my Android phone is called Namazu Alert. It means catfish in Japan, and the name is from a legend about earthquakes being caused by a giant catfish underground. It works moderately well, though I don't actually regard it as that useful.

The fundamental problem is that if an earthquake is far enough away to give you much warning time, then it won't be that strong when it reaches you. The massive earthquake on March 11 only swayed our building a bit. If the earthquake is close enough to hurt you, then you'll be lucky to get more than a few seconds of warning. In summary, I've received a few big alerts in the months that I've had it, but they weren't bad at my actual location--but I haven't yet decided to uninstall it.

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Coat

Does the app have a good rating?

Erm, http://xkcd.org/937/

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@Joseph Haig

Ach, dammit, you got there first!

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Go

So if you're a Japanese butcher ....

.... you'll have time to decide to a.) grab your meat and eat it or b.) grab your meat and beat it.

Or maybe just enough time to bend over, place your head between your thighs and kiss your azz goodbye.

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FAIL

Nice Apple

trying to sell their crap off the back of other people misery.. They almost rank as low as Microsoft in the thoughtless PR stakes...

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Anonymous Coward

'Such functionality is common in natively produced handsets'

Are those natively produced handsets also evil?

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Not really

This is seen as a standard feature in every mobile phone in Japan. It's unusual that they don't have it yet.

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SMS

Can't you write an app that listens for the SMS warning and sets off an alarm? Apps on android do something similar, e.g. the preyproject app listens for an SMS which enables / disables phone tracking.

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Thank God

Someone mentioned Android. I was getting worried there.

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Is it not a fair comment?

I have no idea if iOS supports it but it seems a reasonable thing to allow for situations like this, burglar alarms, emergency pagers or pretty much anything which might wish to notify the owner when a very important text comes through.

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Silver badge

It is a fair comment, but...

... apps can't listen for SMSs because apps have no access to your SMS stream, Apple's decision being that customers don't want that and Apple's app store being such that they can block any applications that go through unofficial channels.

However, apps can listen for a message from an external server without being active and in the foreground, that being how things like Skype work. There are some restrictions on that which I won't bore you with in detail, but generally speaking you give app-by-app permission to alert you to notifications pushed by an external server and Apple will allow your app to respond if it fits into a permitted use case. Otherwise you just get the notification on screen, possibly with a sound effect, and the app doesn't get any CPU time whatsoever unless the user allows it.

I guess because your question leads to a discussion of the walled garden it was unfairly mistaken for a troll.

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I expect

It has less to do with being a walled garden and more to do with lack of the appropriate system triggers to permit it. Android apps can install an intent listener which is invoked by an SMS received event. If the listener decides to it can then launch an activity or do what it likes.I assumed Apple would provide likewise but apparently not. Perhaps this framework is what iOS 5 will provide.

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Coat

App deactivation

I certainly hope you don't have to shake the damned handset to deactivate it...

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Alert

False Alarm?

Lets hope it s a bit more reliable than the iOS Daylight Savings alarm time fiasco!

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The Japanese market with either 'take offense' or not...

I guess that the cognoscente here will find out from the Japanese reception of this idea. My guess is that they won't take offense or find it condescending, but we will see...

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Joke

Bit late innit?

Perhaps somebody should tell Apple that the earthquake has already happened.

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Trollface

Hey look at my iPhone is telling me! Cool, huh?

Oh yeah, run for cover!

http://xkcd.com/723/

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Early warning

If you want to see how much warning you would have got between the p- and s- waves in Tokyo, 376 kms from the epicentre of the 8.9 quake in March, look here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU1bYspMyQw

It's not much, but it might save your life.

As with everything in earthquakes, the further you are from the epicentre the better, on the whole.

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FAIL

There is an app for that

... oops, should have read the article in more detail as there are "apps for that"

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Coat

Why is it in iOS ...

.... because there isn't an app for it

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Holmes

About time

I'd say about 10% of all Japanese Metro and train riders that were using phones where using iphones vs the typical Japanese style flip phones during my trip their last week. So it seems that Apple is just doing something it should have done at least prior to March of this year.

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Coat

Earth Shattering News...

and quite ground breaking too if you think about it.

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M7S
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Why not us as well

We had an earthquake here in Mid-Wales.

It knocked out the wind-up clock on the mantlepiece (which is about as high tech as we have here, thanks to BT)

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Foreign phones in Japan

Foreign phone makers were slow to implement this and other Japan-centric feature because Japanese operators and government officials hate dealing with foreign companies. This was the main reason (for example) that Nokia weren't able to compete, even though they had the tech (compared to native Japanese phones at least, many of which still run Symbian) and were eager to deploy it. Apple delivers more clout. They were more confident and more brash in establishing themselves in a xenophobic market.

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Yep

"Japanese operators and government officials hate dealing with foreign companies."

That's been my experience, and I'm not the only one. Check out Landes' "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations" for descriptions of what officials in Japan have done to a LOT of imported products.

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