When the iOS 5 update hits iPhones in Japan, it will include perhaps one of the more thoughtful and useful notification systems Apple's ever included with their technology. Perhaps I'm just letting my surprise motivate the hyperbole, but the feature could save thousands of lives, and because of that, Apple should certainly be commended.
Japanese iPhone owners who update to iOS 5 will have an early earthquake warning notification app built into it, which is about as cool as it sounds.
Lest we forget, Japan was absolutely ravaged by earthquakes during the spring, and such a capability with such a popular phone--yes, the iPhone 4 is very popular, even in tech-crazy Japan--will only help future reaction times. If only one more life is saved thanks to Apple's act of philanthropy via dominant mobile device, then it's done its job.
According to the 9to5Mac blog, the iOS 5 notification system taps into Japan's national earthquake warning system, which has been called one of the most advanced in the world, and because of that, including the notification capability into Japanese version of iOS 5 can only be viewed as a positive.
These warnings, provided the user has them turned on, can mean the difference between reaching safety and being near an earthquake's epicenter. It should be noted that, according to the 9to5Mac post, these warnings can come minutes or seconds before an earthquake hits. If the latter occurs, there obviously won't be much reaction time, but knowledge is still power, and if the warning comes before the tremors start, it could make all the difference.
The post also includes a screenshot of what the notification looks like, which, again, is an option that must be turned on before owners start receiving warnings:
For those who cannot read the text above, it also warns that the feature may reduce your battery life because it is always connected to Japan’s earthquake warning system.
Considering how ripe the area is for tectonic activity, I'd say having to charge your iPhone battery a few more times a year is worth the ability to perhaps save yourself before another devastating earthquake hits.