A recently signed law will require the iPhone and other phones sold in India to feature a “panic button” to call emergency services and GPS for location pings from January 1, 2017. The law is designed to aid in the security of women in the country.
The document signed by the minister said “feature phones without the facility of panic button by pressing Numeric key — 5 or Numeric key — 9 to invoke emergency call” shall not be sold in India.
“With effect from the January 1, 2018, no mobile phone handset manufactured (sic) company shall sell the new mobile phone handset in India without the facility of identifying the location through satellite based GPS,” the notification added.
While GPS is already available in the iPhone, and most other smartphones for that matter, Apple will need to add the panic button feature to its iOS software to comply with the order.
The document goes on to state smartphones will either need to add a physical button dedicated to the emergency function, or repurpose the power button with an additional gesture to activate the call for help. The later, software-based method seems the likely route Apple will take to add the feature.
A possible implementation for smartphone makers is to activate panic mode when the power button is pushed three times in rapid succession. “Dumb phones” with physical keypads could activate the mode by holding down a designated key on the keypad.
Activating the panic feature will send a signal to the nearest security agency, who will then respond to the emergency. That response system is said to be in the early planning stages, and no details about it are available.
While the iPhone already offers an emergency function, allowing a user to bring up a special dialing pad to call emergency numbers without unlocking the device, that feature does not meet the requirements of the new Indian law.