back to article EU proposed emergency alert system won't work on iPhone

Europe is shuffling towards an international agreement on emergency alerts delivered to our mobile phones, but if current plans continue you might not ever know you received one. The idea is being discussed today at the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) with various industry and government reps in attendance, but …


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  1. Tim Greening-Jackson

    Just my $0.02...

    Most users probably think that in the event of flooding their iPhone will allow them to walk on water anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do you

      mean it won't?

      I want my money back.

  2. g.marconi

    Well since more than two-thirds of the entire EU are using Android handsets with apple amongst the remaining users of minority systems it is hardly worth bothering about them. The US has a long history of ignoring, or worse still, deliberately breaking existing standards and since they represent only some 5% of the global population this

    unfortunate habit should not be allowed to affect the progress of the world as a whole.

    1. Kristian Walsh

      "Four buttons good, one button bad" ?

      " unfortunate habit should not be allowed to affect the progress of the world as a whole. "

      Honestly, think about what you've just said there. You're advocating allowing people to die because they don't run fucking Android? Good man.

      Besides, there are ten times as many plain voice+SMS phones as smartphones, and these will need to be compatible with whatever system is chosen.

      1. Graham 25

        Re: "Four buttons good, one button bad" ?

        "Honestly, think about what you've just said there. You're advocating allowing people to die because they don't run fucking Android? Good man."

        Its almost as daft as expecting to survive a scenario where they actually need to use a nationwide broadcast facility. If the event is that bad, you may well be better off not knowing the meteorite is coming and the type of handset is completely irrelevant. Besides which, even if your mobile doesn;t get the message, all the other folks around you will get it on theirs.

        1. Kristian Walsh

          Re: "Four buttons good, one button bad" ?

          It's not necessarily a nationwide broadcast; it's regional, which is a major reason to favour cell broadcast.

          These messages aren't for apocalyptic events, they're for more mundane catastrophes like flood warnings, forest fires, major chemical spills and severe storms; and also for telling people that the hundred or so chemical-suited emergency workers they might see getting into trucks today are on their way to a combined services drill, and not the end of civilisation.

    2. Mark .

      Quite right - and yes, Symbian also still has a massive installed userbase, particularly in Europe.

      I mean, let's get this straight. It's okay for loads of companies and even Governments to produce "apps" only catering for the minority 10% of iphone users, but the moment they're left out, suddenly that's newsworthy? Sorry, who cares - now they know what it feels like.

      At least Android is now getting support, but the other platforms hardly ever get support. And the situation was even more bizarre up until recently, when these other platforms were selling as much or more than iphone, but almost always ignored.

      I say we should be thankful that a system caters for the majority first. Of course, it's nice to be inclusive of everyone - but first we should be criticising all the companies only producing apps for iphone (or at best, iphone and Android). Sadly it's not even a US vs Europe thing - even in the US, where despite being Apple's best market, Android outsells iphone at least 2 to 1 IIRC, there still seems to be far more hype and app-support for the minority of Apple users.

      1. Doogie1


        Rather than keep whining about the lack of support for Android why not see it as an opportunity and start developing for it yourself.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Well since more than two-thirds of the entire EU are using Android handsets"

      I think there's something wrong with your maths. The population of the EU is around 730 million and the Worldwide total number of Android DEVICES (not just phones) is 500 million. So unless all those Asian people who bought Android have just moved to Europe I think you need to go back to school. (If you've not left school yet ignore the last bit)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    could leave iPhone users to the mercy of the encroaching zombie horde as their handsets don't seem to get the message at all.

    I would call that a win for everybody!

    1. dotdavid
      Black Helicopters

      If the opinions of some commentards, the encroaching zombie hordes *are* the iPhone users...

    2. Simon Harris

      I believe there is a special emergency broadcast system for iPhone users.

      The messages come with exclusive eTickets for the 'B' Ark.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The same system that falls over at busy times like New Years Eve and people don't get messages until hours after they were sent and sometimes the network doesn't have to be that busy. I have had texts from friends of mine asking where I was and how long I was going to be arrive before the text they had sent an hour earlier telling me where they would be.

    Not great for an emergency system

    1. Andrew Barr

      Emergency System

      In an emergency, the phone companies prioritise emergency calls over their networks, so while Joe Public gets naff all, emergency services, important MPs, etc will get a normal service so they can get on with saving the world :D

    2. Christian Berger


      It's distinct from SMS, and can be sent with a higher priority.


    iPhone doesn't support Cell Broadcasts?

    The first thing I do when I get a cellphone is to switch on Cell Broadcast reception which I like to think of it as Teletext for phones- all it does it push useless info like the current cell tower name and ID number to the device. At least, that's what my telco uses Cell Broadcast for. The device then proceeds to scroll the information on the main screen. Useless, but nonetheless fun to have around.

    My Android handset has full support for the service, as does my old trusty Nokia N97, And as I recall it, my old HTC TyTN does too. So why doesn't the iPhone?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: iPhone doesn't support Cell Broadcasts?

      You answered your own question, when you said "all it does is push useless info like the current cell tower name and ID number".

      The article says iPhone has "some support" for it, presumably it isn't really turned on because no one is using it for anything useful. If that changes, it can be turned on with a software update. Given that "half the phones" won't sound an audible alert (which seems a prerequisite to be useful in emergency situations) it isn't exactly a problem unique to Apple. It's actually more of a problem for the phones are forgotten by the vendor once they have your money and may never get an update.

  6. jowlymonster

    I used to "use" cell broadcast years ago with old Nokias and Ericssons to display the local area code on the screen... shame more was never made of it (you could add other codes to display random techy crap IIRC too)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahh, minority platform, they prob won't develop it for Win CE either ;)

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Actually the old, CE-based, WinMo platform came with support for cell broadcasting built in.

      Of course, trying to turn it on inevitably resulted in the response that there was bugger all being broadcast to subscribe to, but the capability was there......

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Can't pay for Cell Broadcast

    The message goes to the cell, not the mobile. Each message carries a topic number and the mobile might be configured to receive the message's topic number or it might not but as it is things aren't set up on the billing side to bill for a message which might or might not be received by a group of customers.

    The most famous topic is 050 which holds the cell's name and was used by Vodafone and O2 to display the landline dialling code covered by the cell, back in the day when there were tariffs which had cheaper local calls from mobiles (which was a bit silly but anyway).

    As Jobs would have said,

    Update your handset software to support existing standards. Not that big of a deal.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Can't pay for Cell Broadcast

      Oh and CB has language support, if the operator pushes the same message out in umpteen different languages.

      Icon for me forgetting to remember this.

      1. Steve the Cynic

        Re: Can't pay for Cell Broadcast

        Re: "CB has language support". This derailed my brain for a moment, as I couldn't see how Citizen's Band radio could offer any sort of support, nor anti-support, for languages...

        This does, of course, highlight an interesting thing I'm seeing more of these days - repurposing of abbreviations...

        So now we have CB, but the one before that was SDLC. The little corner of my brain that responds first to that says "Synchronous Data Link Control" rather than the more modern meaning, which I *presume* refers to "Software Development Life Cycle". (I "presume" because it's not automatically clear that anyone actually knows what these abbreviations actually stand for anymore so I have to work it out from context. Who these days remembers that the "A" in "VGA" does not stand for "Adapter"? (Well, I do, but I used, many years ago, a PS/2 model 50, back when PS2 was merely an incorrect spelling of Personal System/2.))

        1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

          Re: Can't pay for Cell Broadcast

          Attaboy, glad our ARRAY of old geezers remembers the good old times ;)

          (Nope did not look it up. Sigh. I'm old.)

    2. Benny

      Re: Can't pay for Cell Broadcast

      I was just thinking the other day that there used to be a way to show the area code, that way I didn't have to type the area code on my mobile for local calls, at least I didn't imagine it!

  9. richard?

    No better "expert" available??

    Why are all the quotes from an "expert" with a clear commercial reason to trash the idea?

    Surely you could have found someone to comment directly on the Dutch or US experience?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: No better "expert" available??

      And why an "expert" who is in fact, almost completely wrong?

      For a start, SMS is not guaranteed delivery, it's best-effort and even has settings for how long to keep trying - between one hour and a week or so.

      I think this marketeer has confused "has a delivery receipt" with "always delivers", an easy mistake for the hard-of-thinking.

      SMS is fundamentally not much different to email.

      Cell Broadcast was designed with this purpose in mind (at least, according to the gnarled O2 engineers at the Airwave conference a few years back).

      Mandate that all handsets must support it, and even the idiot USians will push out a firmware update within six months. The towers all support it already anyway - even if a lot of them have nothing to say right now.

      1. SImon Hobson

        Re: No better "expert" available??

        I agree, they seem to keep finding experts with an interest in squashing it.

        >> Mandate that all handsets must support it, and even the idiot USians will push out a firmware update within six months.

        Exactly, make it mandatory and all new phones will come with it - no manufacturer (not even Apple) will be prepared to pull out of Europe. And any manufacturer that cares will push it to older devices with an update - though I expect Apple (and a handful of others) will see it as an opportunity to sell you a newer bit of bling.

        1. crayon

          Re: No better "expert" available??

          "though I expect Apple (...) will see it as an opportunity to sell you a newer bit of bling."

          And don't forget their obligatory patent.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Your new emergency service just got better.

    0118 999 881 999 119 725.... 3

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Your new emergency service just got better."

      Dear sir/madam,

      Zombies! Zombies! Send help!

      Yours faithfully,


  11. MacroRodent

    Presidential override

    > "no option to ignore Presidential Alerts should Obama decide to say "hi" to the whole country."

    Or in the worst case, "Incoming missiles - duck and cover!"

    (Just hoping no hacker gets access to this: it would start the Mother of all Panics).

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: Presidential override

      You mean like the RDS-TMC 'Air raid warning' messages? ...

      El Reg past reports...

  12. Christian Berger

    Some Nokia phones...

    ...used to be _bricked_ by cell broadcasts. This was found out when some company operated their own GSM cell at a trade show and foolishly used the cell broadcast feature.

  13. Silverburn

    Cricket scores = time critical?

    are they really that important...or did I just read that wrong?

    I suspect being eaten by zombies would be preferrable to being spammed by cricket scores.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well, the iPhone 9 will be out much quicker than the time it will take the EU to make it a compulsory standard.

    So, the fact that iOS n where n<=6 doesn't support CB is of no relevance whatsoever

  15. Mystic Megabyte

    SMS fail

    My old Nokia showed when a text was sent, my new Nokia only shows when it was received.

    This really pisses me off because where I live texts can arrive 24hrs after they were sent and I know when it was received because the phone just beeped at me.

  16. Chandy


    Any 'oh no, it's a disaster' SMS would either be treated as spam and ignored, or not treated as urgent. A real emergency system should only ever light up in an actual emergency, so that the user knows it is real.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: SMS?

      So there should be special "crown" and a "keep calm" LED on every Ofcom-approved mobe?

  17. Paul Shirley

    sms notifications can be silenced

    In night mode my mobile kills sms notifications. Presumably emergencies only happen in daylight hours if you have an sms service to sell.

  18. Velv

    Ah, nothing like having a STANDARD and complying with it...

    When is the ITU going to publish a roadmap that will converge the existing "standards" used around the world. Technology is advancing, and while the Merkins (and othes) use a different system from GSM now, they will replace their infrastructure over the coming years (have done already for LTE) so at this point you can start to incorporate a GLOBAL standard.

    (And I'm not staying it should be GSM, just that the ITU needs to get a roadmap agreed that in 10 years it will be converged) (and don't give me excuses about bandwidth and frequencies - that's part of the ROADMAP).

  19. NIck Hunn
    Thumb Up

    Sounds like the Hitchhiker's Guide come true

    Isn't this a remarkably similar ploy to the one in the Hitchiker's Guide to rid the Earth of hairdressers, account executives, film makers, security guards, telephone sanitisers, and the like? Roll on the imminent disaster...

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