T-Mobile’s Poor Implementation Works Against Amber Alerts

Just over a month ago, I received a pop-up alert on my Samsung Galaxy 3 (via T-Mobile) with a standard, and persistent, emergency broadcast noise…

Emergency alert
Longmont, CO AMBER Alert: LIC/245FLJ (CO) 2001 Blue Ford F350 Pickup truck
Type: AMBER Alert

The noise stopped briefly, then picked back up again until I tapped “OK”. This is a radical departure from the previous product behavior and service provided. Presumably this came with the latest Android update T-Mobile pushed shortly before (May 13).

No warning about this change, no indication where the alerts are coming from, no explanation on criteria for receiving (Longmont is almost 40 miles north of me, outside a metropolis of ~ 4.5 million), no indication of how often we receive them, a repeating noise that we have to acknowledge (as opposed to SMS that gives a noise/vibration one time only), etc. I’m not opposed to getting such warnings but I should be able to opt in and control the settings for how it is displayed.

One hour later, I received the same alert. That is intrusive and annoying. When it happened, I thought “if this shit happened at night, it would wake me up and force me to get up to ack the alert and turn off the phone” and just that happened. Wednesday early morning, at 5:20AM I received another. As I thought, it woke me, given the emergency sound and vibrating on my desk.


Looking at the SMS options that control this is also interesting. I now have to receive “Presidential Alerts” and cannot opt out of them. There are also Imminent Extreme alerts, Imminent Serious alerts, and the Amber alerts that I have received twice now. What are the others, and what differentiates them? When was the last time a Presidential broadcast was sent to everyone’s email address or home phone number? Absurd you say, why is it all of a sudden OK to send them to every subscriber’s cell phone?

What bothers me the most is that the Amber alerts, and presumably the others, do not adhere to the rest of my SMS settings. When I get an SMS, it vibrates once, makes an audible noise of my choice once, and sits idle until I check the phone. Amber alerts come up with a different sound; one that repeats until I acknowledge it.


This is ridiculous. I want to receive them, but on my terms. The current setup and being woken at five in the morning forced me to disable the Amber alerts. T-mobile’s crappy technical implementation has worked contrary to their intentions by annoying customers into disabling them. This works against the entire purpose of having the alerts pushed via cell phones.

5 responses to “T-Mobile’s Poor Implementation Works Against Amber Alerts”

    • I am hoping non-Tmobile users can clarify that. I’ve only talked with other Tmob users that experienced this, but haven’t heard about it from other vendors.

      • I have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus that’s on AT&T’s network via Straighttalk. We haven’t had an Amber alert close enough to where I live for it to be sent out over the cell network, but we do have tsunami warning tests. Out of the two tsunami tests that have gone out since I’ve had the phone, I’ve gotten exactly zero emergency alert messages on the thing.

        I don’t know much about the Wireless Emergency Alert system, but the Emergency Alert System (the broadcast version of WEA) doesn’t have a way of designating a tsunami, or national alert as a test. They propogate across the system as if they were real emergencies. When such a test comes along, TV stations have to put up a slate assuring people who can’t hear the audio that it’s just a test, as the text crawl that’s automatically generated states that it’s not a test. I woudn’t be surprised if the wireless industry version is just as fucked as the broadcast industry.

  1. I’m with Tmobile, I also have a Samsung Galaxy S3… I got the amber alert for the tragedy in San Diego. Which is fine. I can handle 1 alert. but I got it 12 times, and I did get it in the middle of the night…all of the 12 times, at least once every hr from 11:30pm – 6:40am… Everyone else I know only received only 1 alert but they have Iphone, and its on a different network. =/

  2. Got my first Amber Alert for a location 70 miles away. Loud sound woke me up at 3 AM. Didn’t show up on wife’s or son’s phone on same plan. Couldn’t go back to sleep. Even though Amber Alert is a great idea, I’ve turned it off.

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