How to Disable AMBER Alerts on the iPhone

May 1, 2014 - 14 Comments

AMBER Alert on the iPhone

While the concept behind AMBER Alerts is fantastic, being startled by the iPhone belting out an extremely loud and terrifyingly blaring alarm sound in the middle of the night is not exactly a pleasant experience. This can be made even more frustrating for users who don’t know what the alert is for, and exacerbated by the very generous coverage region for an AMBER alert, where you may be hundreds of miles away from the event epicenter and still get the alarm sent to your iPhone anyway. It’s not recommended, but as with other weather and government alerts, iOS offers an option to disable all AMBER Alerts coming to your iPhone.


We’ll emphasize that again; turning off the AMBER alert alarms feature is really not recommended because the system works best when all individuals keep the feature turned on, thus increasing effectiveness and reporting. Unfortunately, disabling the alert is the only way (at the moment) to turn off the petrifying sound effect, which may be appealing to some users who have found the alarms to be an unusual disturbance if not outright erroneous based on their iPhone location, sometimes in a completely different state from where the alerts location is specified.

Disabling the AMBER Alerts & Alarm Sound on iPhone

Currently, there is only an option to disable both the sound and the alert. Here’s what you’ll want to do:

  1. Open Settings on the iPhone and head to “Notification Center”
  2. Scroll all the way to the bottom to find the “GOVERNMENT ALERTS” section
  3. Toggle the switch for “AMBER Alerts” to be OFF

This disables both the the very loud sound effect, and disappointingly, it also turns off the actual important alert notifications too.

Disable AMBER Alerts on the iPhone

Why can’t we just mute the AMBER Alert sound effect? Or change it to something less frightening?

Ideally, future versions of iOS will offer an ability to simply turn off or change the AMBER Alert sound effect to a much more subtle sound that is less startling, while still allowing the obviously important notifications to come through to everyones devices. Most of us pay attention to every single little beep and boop emitted from our phones and computers anyway, so the aggressive default sound that Apple included is very likely not essential to get our attention.

Because of how disturbing the alert sound effect is, many users who hear it once immediately want to turn the feature off completely. That’s obviously bad since it hurts the effectiveness of the program, so clearly some changes are needed. If you’ve never heard an AMBER alert sent to an iPhone, it’s hard to quantify just how disturbing the sound is from iOS. It’s not your standard ‘emergency broadcast’ sound that breaks through TV or Radio, that would be much more pleasant, it’s an extraordinarily loud and intrusive sound, overriding whatever the iPhone mute settings, volume settings, alert sounds, and audio preferences of the Do Not Disturb feature. It’s genuinely startling, whether you’re sleeping, sitting around the house, or driving, and if you’re in a room with multiple devices that get the alert at the same time it’s a nearly heart attack inducing cacophony which basically sounds like the world is ending.

iOS AMBER Alert Improvements are Needed

AMBER Alerts also have another problem; the data sent to your iPhone isn’t exactly clear. Several of my friends recently got one in the US state of Arizona (pictured above). Many of them had never even heard of an AMBER alert before, let alone the sound, and it certainly gives no indication that it’s aimed at helping to locate a missing child. Basically if you don’t already know what they are, you just get the horrifying alert sound on your iPhone with a very vague message that mentions a location, a loose car description, and an alphanumeric number (which turns out to be the license plate) – one of my friends actually thought it was a spam message for auto sales that was somehow dispatched to their iPhone. Furthermore, tapping onto the AMBER alert notification doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t pull up more information, and it doesn’t explain what it is… it just sits under the “Emergency Alerts” section of the Notifications panel, which is also where hazardous weather and events get listed.

All of this seems like an oversight that should be fixed so that users can at least learn more details about the alert, and ultimately help to respond to it. It also seems bizarre that the only way to get relief from the sound effect is to completely turn off the feature, so here’s to hoping that Apple offers some changes in a future iOS update to an otherwise important feature.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks

14 Comments

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  1. sam says:

    We got one of these at 3AM and it woke the entire house up. Guess what the first thing everyone did was? Turn the feature off on every iPhone in the house. Yea, we get that it’s important, and we’d opt into the notifications without the audio, but the sound is absolutely mortifying.

    • Kingsford says:

      I bet if it were your kid that Amber Alert was for you’d want everyone with an iPhone in the area to see this… Even at 3am.

    • Paul says:

      Most users should leave the AMBER alerts on because it’s the right thing to do, but I know many that share your opinion based on the intense sound alone. Hopefully Apple gives us all an option to tone down the sound effect, even using the familiar breakthrough audio signal that comes through TV or Radio with emergency broadcasts would be an improvement.

    • Sally says:

      Wow what a first world problem. “My super expensive Iphone 5000 wakes me up when children are kidnapped! How annoying”

      People like you make me sick, why cant the psychos ever kidnap people like you instead.

      • Hmmmm says:

        Why are you looking to disable AMBER alerts on your iPhone feature if you’re going to complain about others disabling the incredibly loud AMBER alerts? Curious!

  2. Jessica says:

    I have gotten about 10 AMBER and weather alerts since getting the 5S in March. It is absolutely disturbing whenever these messages come through. The other month when we had all that bad weather in Texas, it was just going off and off and off. My Lumia 520’s alert wasn’t as obnoxious.

    I don’t want to turn the AMBER Alerts off, because it’s heartless, but I hope that we do get the chance to limit these with Do Not Disturb. We shouldn’t be losing sleep over someone else’s missing child. It’s 2AM, I’m in bed, what use am I in that case?

    Weather and government alerts are totally different, and should be going through no matter what though.

  3. mike d says:

    I got this Amber alert along with another one a couple of months ago. Both of them were for children taken several hundred miles away. I understand the urgency and need for this information to go out, but not statewide in a state as large as Arizona. I have turned my notification off.

    • Bobert says:

      As an Arizonite, I’m fearful that my white children will be kidnapped, exported to Mexico, and sold to China due to fund Obamacare. So I leave my Amber Alerts on (’cause I don’t know where my white children are), and my AR15 by my bedside.

  4. Like the notifications that we get from apps, we should be able to adjust whether we get a sound or not, and we should have the ability to set whether the visual notification shows up as a banner or an alert. My biggest beef with these alerts is that we cannot disable the “presidential alert”. The government has no right to FORCE me to receive alerts.

  5. Chuck says:

    Thank you. Turned it off.

    What a self defeating bit of incompetant design.

    I appreciate the feature and will turn it on when they (the authorities or Apple) reduce the volume to something appropriate, or better yet let me adjust it.

  6. Raven says:

    I put my phone on Do Not Disturb at night.

  7. Joe T. says:

    I had an Amber Alert go off at 4am this morning on my work-issued iPhone. My personal Android next to it also received the Amber Alert, but it was smart enough to heed DND. Why the heck doesn’t the iPhone respect my DND settings?

    First thing I did after getting up this morning was turn off Amber Alerts on my iPhone.

  8. Josh says:

    @Kingsford: The old “I bet if it were your child….” ploy, eh? Nice move.

    You missed the OP point. They dont want to be scaring the crap out of their households, instead they want to be informed – properly.

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