Most of us have probably never had to call 911, let alone had to worry about a low-battery mobile phone dying on us in the middle of an emergency. But, with the proliferation of smartphones these days that's actually more of a worry than ever. When I carried a Razr I never ran out of battery power during the course of a day, even if I had to make an exceptional amount of phone calls or send a bunch of messages. But smartphones are different. They don't get nearly as long of a battery life, and we usually drain that battery by surfing the net. What if you get in a car crash on the way back from a long day at work when your iPhone is almost dead? How will you keep on the line long enough to get help?
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That worry may never have occurred to you (it didn't to me), but apparently Apple's engineers are a little better at foreseeing that sort of error. They're hard at work researching ways to make the iPhone more capable in an emergency.
One of the safety methods they're thinking of loading on is a program that will recognize when you place an emergency call and shut down all extraneous programs to conserve battery power when you do. If you dial 911 or a local police number or a number that you've designated as an 'emergency' contact the iPhone will shut down the camera, WiFi, and everything else it considers 'non-essential' in order to give you more talking time.
That's not the only emergency measure Apple is looking at taking. They also want to make it impossible to accidentally disconnect from an emergency call. It's easy to accidentally press the disconnect button with your ear or cheek, especially on a touchscreen phone. Apple might start requiring a typed password confirmation, or just a clicked box confirmation, in order to discontinue any emergency phone call.
Apple engineers have also considered the possibility of letting users pre-record emergency messages. Do you have a history of severe allergic reactions? Pre-record an “allergy attack, send ambulance and epi” message that sends your GPS location and recorded message to 911 at the push of a button.
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It's not known when Apple will institute these new features. When they do, it'll probably come as part of a free app or firmware upgrade. I'm really glad to see innovation of this sort from Apple, and I hope other smartphone company's follow suit. Technology like this is a perfect example of how the digital revolution can increase lifespan and quality of life for millions of people. Any program that's unobtrusive and potentially life-saving is a good thing.