updated 11:00 pm EDT, Fri June 14, 2013
Subscribers can opt to receive AMBER and emergency push notices
An FCC mandate for a Wireless Emergency Alert system implemented on mobile devices is now being delivered to iPhones by AT&T, the country's second-largest carrier. The government-issued messages will appear in a manner similar to text messages, reports AppleInsider, but are actually delivered by a different and faster system (at no charge to the user). They will include mandatory Presidential alerts (issued by the White House), and the option to receive Imminent Threat alerts and AMBER alerts.
The carrier notes that customers not on iOS 6.1 or later (a small percentage of the customer base, according to Apple) will not receive the carrier update over the air, but will get it when the user next updates their software via iTunes. So far, reports indicate that owners of the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 are now receiving the updates. Users can turn off the AMBER alerts (which come from law enforcement and assist in locating missing or abducted children), as well as the Imminent Threat alerts (which cover things such as severe man-made or natural disasters where there is risk of severe property damage or loss of life).
Users will receive a short message that informs them that the Carrier Settings have been updated. By default, the message alerts will be turned on, and the program is part of an FCC initiative called CMAS (Commercial Mobile Alert System) and required by law. The alert program has actually been active on WEA-capable mobile devices since April of last year.