Smartphones allow us to stay in contact with our loved ones more closely than ever before, but some of the most important features, like location sharing, are only functional when everyone uses the same operating system on their devices.
That’s about to change. Google is bringing its Trusted Contacts location sharing app to iOS, making it even easier for families that span the Android-iPhone divide to keep track of each other during emergencies.
The app comes to iOS after debuting for Android last year. Users can now proactively share their location with their in-group or search for the last place a friend or loved one was active on their phone if they suddenly go silent, no matter their OS.
iOS devices already have a similar feature with Find My Friends, but Trusted Contacts expands the scope of the tracking abilities across operating systems. That means a loved one with an iPhone can pinpoint the last active location of a Samsung Galaxy S8, for example, and vice versa.
The new iOS Trusted Contacts app comes with a round of updates for the service for all users. You can now add people to your “trusted contacts” list by their phone number, and the app sends an SMS to them to connect.
Users can also choose how quickly their location will be automatically shared if they know they’ll be away from their phone and unable to answer. The default setting had been five minutes, but now the response time can be set at any time from immediately to an hour.
Privacy might be a concern for people who don’t want their loved ones to have a constant bead on their location — but if it’s that big of a deal, those people don’t have to download the app. Google told Mashable last year at the launch of the Android version that Trusted Contacts is “necessary” no matter the privacy concerns, since emergency situations can make it impossible for people to respond to messages.
The Trusted Contacts expansion follows Google’s new SOS alerts, a set of features for Search and Maps designed to make emergency information more accessible to all in the event of a crisis. Google might not be able to prevent disasters, but it’s taking steps to help those affected.