updated 12:55 pm EDT, Mon August 22, 2011
Gives up to two minutes' warning before tremors
iOS 5 will include built-in earthquake notifications for Japan, reports note. The option is currently located at the bottom of the Japanese iOS 5 Notification Center. Flipping a slider allows an iOS device to receive warnings from the country's official earthquake warning system, which can give a person up to two minutes to prepare for the full impact of a disaster.
The option should replace a variety of third-party titles on the Japanese App Store which serve a similar purpose. Apple cautions though that turning the option on will drain battery life, since a device needs to stay constantly connected to the warning service for it to be useful.
The company may be more sensitive to Japan's problems following the 9.0 earthquake which hit the eastern coast on March 11th. The catastrophe disrupted the local iPad 2 launch, caused havoc for Apple workers and forced several suppliers to temporarily shut down. The Sendai Apple Store served as an emergency communications hub for the city, since locals could use its free Wi-Fi to contact relatives and check on news.