A new motion signed into law in India will require all phones, including iPhones, to feature a ‘panic button’ to call emergency services and GPS for location pings from January 1st, 2017. The provisions are being brought in to aid the ‘security of women’, via the Indian Express.
Obviously, GPS has existed in iPhones since the iPhone 3G but it seems that Apple will have to make some software modifications to iOS to comply with the panic button request.
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The document dictates that smartphones need to add a physical button dedicated to emergency response or repurpose the power button with an additional gesture to initiate a call for help. It seems unlikely that Apple will adorn its sleek iPhones with a special button just for one country, so compliance will likely come via the latter software-based method.
The suggested implementation is for smartphone makers to activate the panic mode when the power button is pressed quickly three times. Essentially, it needs to be activated without requiring use of the touchscreen. On dumb phones that include physical number pads (still very common in India), the mode would be activated by holding down a particular key.
When the panic button is activated, a signal will be sent to the nearest security agency to respond. However, the system still seems to be in early planning stages as further details about the plan were not disclosed. Via GPS location, the idea is that the plan will give security force more accountability in responding to emergency help requests.
Right now, iOS features quick access to dial an emergency number on the lock screen. Slide to the left and tap the ‘Emergency’ button. This brings up a special white/red dialpad that allows calls to emergency service numbers without needing to unlock the device. The iOS feature is not sufficient to comply with the new Indian ruling, as it necessitates an emergency response can be triggered without using the screen to navigate.
Apple is currently focusing on India to find new geographies for iPhone growth and the company is currently pursuing opportunities to sell iPhones directly to customers in the country. The cheaper iPhone SE is also clearly positioned at emerging markets and has seen decent uptake in India, according to analysts.