Last month, Google rolled out the Android Earthquake Alerts System to seven more countries ahead of a global launch over the next year. The Philippines is one of those places with earthquake warnings enabled, and Android users yesterday benefited from such a heads-up.

According to the US Geological Survey, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck Tingloy, Philippines, yesterday in the early morning hours. Reuters reported how shaking “lasted nearly a minute” and awoke some.

Others were made aware of the approaching earthquake a few seconds before shaking started by the blaring of their Android phones. The success of the system was captured by a thread on Reddit today and many reports on Twitter shortly after the event. 

Google built the system to create the “world’s largest earthquake detection network” using the technology and sensors that are already widely out there. It comes as establishing a traditional network of ground seismometers (like in California and the US West Coast) is not always feasible. If such systems are in place, Android does show those government-provided warnings.

The alert system works by using your device’s accelerometer to detect the initial, nondestructive P-wave. Your phone then sends a city-level location, which does not include zip code or street address, to Google’s earthquake detection server. The reports get verified before a loud notification that includes a map, magnitude, and basic drop, cover, and hold reminders is sent. It hopefully comes a few seconds before the destructive S-wave arrives.

It’s automatically enabled, but users can opt out from the Android Settings app > Location > Advanced > Earthquake Alerts. 

Google announced the system in August 2020 with an initial testing period before it went live in two countries this April. It will become available globally in places with wide availability of Android devices running Google Play services over the coming year. The company is starting in countries with high earthquake risk.

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Abner Li

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