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AirPods Amber Alerts Lawsuit

Juli Clover:

Apple’s AirPods ruptured the eardrums of a 12-year-old boy in 2020 when a loud Amber Alert was issued, according to a lawsuit filed against Apple in California (via Law360).

[…]

The AirPods Pro were allegedly set at a low volume, but an Amber Alert sounded without warning and the high-pitched noise damaged B.G.’s eardrums.

[…]

There have been other social media complaints about the noise of Amber Alerts when wearing AirPods. Amber Alerts are designed to catch the attention of iPhone owners, causing devices to play a loud sound and vibrate. Reports on the internet suggest that the Amber Alert sound is indeed very loud when played through AirPods, even when those AirPods are set at a reasonable volume.

I wish I could leave them enabled but set to only vibrate and show a notification on the screen.

Previously:

11 Comments

To add to this issue, I have several times had my airpods in, finished listening to something and just left them in. If I get a text in this state, I would get the alert sounds, max volume, pumped directly into my ears. It has happened to me at least twice. It made me curse out loud. I filed a radar about it back in one of the 15 public betas.

I contend that even the alert sounds coming from the airpods themselves need to be reworked. There is something incredibly grating about the power up and low battery noises that my APM make. They're far too loud, and I notice myself cringing/scrunching up to brace for them each time I put them on my head.

Headphones, the less, the better!

Librarian Scott

I can also confirm that uncomfortably loud sounds have scared me coming from both AirPods and AirPods Max. The last one that made me jump out of my skin was a low battery warning.

I feel sorry for this kid, but presumably this issue has been fixed for a while. I know that nowadays even if you try to initiate a "Find My" noise on AirPods, you are told a very stern warning that they had better not be in anybody's ears because it is going to be loud. The Amber Alert is a weird edge case, but they also need to be audible from like inside the recesses of a couch.

Do they really though?

"The Amber Alert is a weird edge case, but they also need to be audible from like inside the recesses of a couch"

Why? What are you going to do, immediately run out to see if you can spot the missing kid?

Ghost Quartz

Yeah, I don’t think Amber alerts need to be audible inside the recesses of a couch, but the other kinds of emergency alerts do need to be audible. See, for example, earthquake warnings that use the Wireless Emergency Alerts system (https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-do-i-sign-shakealertr-earthquake-early-warning-system, https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-emergency-alerts-wea).

In any case, the sound should be different depending on the audio output device.

There are way too many situations when the device produces max volume notification sounds. Is it because of bugs only or in a combination with bad UX decisions? Does it matter? What about all those max sound level protection?

And again, if Apple would allow more options for users to decide about those alarms it would be even better.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of evidence that AMBER alerts actually help recover abducted children. Preliminary studies indicate that most of the claimed successes did not actually rely on the luck of the AMBER alert.

We're destroying the public's attention (and eardrums) with a program that's probably just security theater.

Ghost Quartz

> And again, if Apple would allow more options for users to decide about those alarms it would be even better.

My US iPhone lists separate toggles for “AMBER Alerts”, “Emergency Alerts”, and “Public Safety Alerts”. When enabled, Emergency Alerts have an additional option to “Always Play Sound [even when iPhone is in silent mode]”. From my understanding, the only alerts that cannot be disabled in the US are those “issued by the President”. [1] It’s unclear to me what the difference between an Emergency Alert and a Public Safety Alert is.

[1] https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-emergency-alerts-wea

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