Apple should activate the hidden FM radio in iPhones, FCC says

Sep 29, 2017, 00:24
Apple should activate the hidden FM radio in iPhones, FCC says

Update: Apple responds that the iPhone 7 and 8 models don't contain FM radio chips and don't have antennas that can support FM signals so what the FCC requests isn't possible.

Including built-in FM radio support for smartphones might seem like a mere oddity in this age of YouTube and Spotify, but communities ravaged by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and especially Maria are finding how useful old-fashioned radio can still be when the usual cellular towers are knocked out of commission.

An Apple spokeswoman reportedly declined comment on the matter.

For years, the majority of smartphones sold in the USA have included FM radios, but a lot of them have been turned off so that you couldn't use the function. Why?

"When wireless networks go down during a natural disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow Americans to get vital access to life-saving information", said Mr. Pai in his statement, which did not hint at any potential federal regulation to require Apple to do so.

One reason Apple might be keeping built-in FM radio off on iPhones is because the feature might discourage customers from buying from iTunes or subscribing to its Apple Music streaming service. "Users can dial emergency services and access Medical ID card information directly from the Lock Screen, and we enable government emergency notifications, ranging from Weather Advisories to AMBER alerts". Radio broadcasts are often the best way to get critical information to the public during a disaster. "And I've specifically pointed out the public safety benefits of doing so". The latter FCC actions helped clear the way for Sinclair Broadcast Group to reach a deal to acquire Tribune's stations, creating a broadcasting giant with a near-national reach.

"Broadcasters are providing information on how to evacuate quickly, where flood waters are raging, how to get out of harm's way if there's a tornado or a hurricane", Wharton said.

Pai's statement comes as some lawmakers have also begun to put pressure on Apple to turn on its FM radios. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and other members of Congress and the FCC have noted.

Pai, a Republican, has been reluctant to mandate cellphone makers offer FM radio access. All four major wireless carriers support FM-radio activation, and a whole host of smartphone companies (all of which are significantly less profitable than Apple) now offer the feature.

"It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first", he continued.