To ensure safety protocols for women are in place, the Indian government has issued a notification stating that all new mobile handsets to be sold in India from 2017 must have a panic button. In addition, from a year later (January 2018), phones must also have in-built GPS to identify the handset's location.
The notification was issued by the country's telecom regulating ministry, the Department of Telecommunications. Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better than using it for the security of women. I have taken a decision that from January 1, 2017, no cell phone can be sold without a provision for panic button, and from January 1, 2018, mobile sets should also have Global Positioning System inbuilt."
For feature phones, a physical panic button can be replaced by pressing a numeric key like 5 or 9 to make an emergency call. It is not known yet as to which number this panic button will send the alert too.
The move is going to be a major challenge for OEM's who have already started manufacturing their devices for sale in the latter half of 2016 and early 2017. India is a major market for Chinese and Taiwanese smartphone manufacturers like Lenovo (including Motorola), Xiaomi, OnePlus, etc., some of whom have even made exclusive models for the region. To fulfil the criteria stated by the government, the manufacturers will have to either redesign their models or somehow incorporate a designated button to directly dial the emergency number.
To make sure that their phones still remain valid for sale, the manufacturers will have to make software tweaks to designate this special button. Big players like Samsung and Apple may not be willing to take this step for a particular region alone.
As for the GPS requirement, it is unclear as to how manufacturers will incorporate this, as only smartphones have GPS capacity as of now. Very few feature phones are available that come with an in-built GPS. Thus, the new rule will force a lot of feature phones in the market to be designated as illegal from 2018 onwards.