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FCC chairman politely asks Apple to enable FM radio in the iPhone

By Polycount ยท 17 replies
Sep 28, 2017
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  1. Whether you're aware of it or not, your smartphone probably comes equipped with an FM chip. It's an important little piece of technology that remains one of the better ways to communicate over long distances in disaster situations, being that it isn't reliant on cell phone service.

    Despite its usefulness, the chip has largely remained dormant in most smartphones sold in the US - until recently, that is. In the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, most major phone manufacturers including Motorola, Samsung and HTC have enabled the functionality for their users.

    Apple, however, has remained curiously resistant to this trend and that's not sitting well with some.

    FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday issued an official statement urging the tech giant to "reconsider its position" on the activation of this important piece of tech in the iPhone.

    The following is an excerpt from the full statement:

    “Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted [activating the FM chip]. But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. That’s why I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones."

    Pai asserts that it's time for Apple to "step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first," while applauding the phone manufacturing companies who have already done so.

    Apple's reasoning behind resisting this request is still unclear but some publications have speculated that the company might be trying to avoid competing with its own music streaming service, Apple Music.

    Though Pai has admitted in the past that a case could be made for the blanket activation of FM chips on "public safety grounds alone," he is reluctant to create an official ruling on the subject given his stance on free market policies (as evidenced by his views on net neutrality).

    Apple responded to Pai's comments in the following statement to MacRumors:

    "Apple cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that's why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products. 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. iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products."

    This explains why Apple hasn't enabled FM chips in newer iPhones, but not why they haven't done so for older generations of the device.

    Permalink to story.

  2. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,205   +719

    What? Apple put money over user convenience?? Nooo.....
    havok585, Reehahs, EClyde and 3 others like this.
  3. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,267   +1,860

    Meanwhile the rest of the world has enjoyed FM and even OTA TV on their phones for well over a decade. And paid much less for wireless service, of course.
    EClyde likes this.
  4. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 630   +403

    Maybe the fcc chairman should focus in net neutrality than this phone feature. In times of crisis, like tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquake, cellphone is a important tool. The battery should be reserved for calling and txting. By preserving also your battery, rescuers would be able to locate you. In our house and work, we have first aid kit and flashlights, snack bars, mini portable radio and batteries. There you go, just go buy a damn portable radio like every fireman would tell you. people these days dont know how to prepare.
    MonsterZero likes this.
  5. Steed

    Steed TS Booster Posts: 46   +27

    Well, you wouldnt want to create a demand for old iphones now would you, thats counterproductive
    EClyde likes this.
  6. Jon Tseng

    Jon Tseng TS Booster Posts: 47   +31

    This just shows how technologically illiterate Ajit Pai is. Just because you have an FM tuner doesn't mean you can receive radio. You also need an antenna and to have support for both of these built into the operating system.

    He may as well ask Apple to active a dual back-facing cam camera in the 4.7" iPhone. After all again the silicon definitely supports a second camera (give or take the higher DRAM content in the Plus). All the ISP hardware is built right into the A11. I mean who cares if the necessary hardware isn't in place if its supported on the chip you can just "activate" the feature right?
    Reehahs and MonsterZero like this.
  7. erickmendes

    erickmendes TS Evangelist Posts: 481   +212

    Are you aware that the Radio function could be used to receive updates on the climate conditions or emergency rescue instructions... right? I don't think they are going to be streaming music in the FM/AM stations when you are in the middle of an hurricane... they are not the Titanic band.
  8. yRaz

    yRaz Nigerian Prince Posts: 2,619   +1,813

    I've had a few android phones that don't have FM inteneas in them but have the chips. When I rooted them the chips were then enabled. While the FM sound wasn't something I'd ever want to listen to music on, it was certainly good enough for receiving emergency broadcasts
  9. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,658   +963

    Considering the amount of people I see with WIRED earphones in their ears, that's a moot point. The FM chip inside a smartphone, using the WIRING of the headset for the antenna. Some have used a paper clip, partially jammed into the headphone jack, to achieve that function, but, unless you know what you are doing, you risk messing up the jack, or the phone.
  10. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,283

    Politely asks??? Regarding everything else, it sounds to me that he likes to throw his weight around and call the shots but now he's grovelling and scraping at Cooks boots? Damn man, that's gotta be humiliating and embarrassing for him. It's entirely plausible he's deathly afraid that the cushy kickback he gets from Apple might be rescinded if he doesn't act with a bit of decorum and tact, which doesn't seem to be part of his nature, but he's learning quickly. For him it's either learn quickly or find his a$$ emptying the city's trashcans.
  11. Jon Tseng

    Jon Tseng TS Booster Posts: 47   +31

    As I pointed out in my post you need not only an antenna but support for radio built into the operating system.

    I've had Android phonea as well which support FM radio. Notably a couple of Xiaomi's. The issue here is the OS has support for FM build in because it is a common feature in emerging markets. iOS does not.

    To enable support on an iPhone Apple doesn't just need to flick a switch as Pai seems to fantasise. It needs to update iOS and build support for FM radio into the OS. That's a pretty massive task - not as much building in the feature (I suspect this isn't that big a task) but then testing and certifying that not only with Apple but with hundreds of telecom operators (if you don't know - when it comes to anything that mucks around with the RF end of a handset they get super sensitive - this is why lots of android updates on carrier devices take so long). After all the last thing you want to do when there is a n emergency on and people need their devices for life-saving connectivity is to release a poorly tested update which breaks something on the phone.

    Think about it. This is not a trivial task. You don't just flick a switch.
  12. Jon Tseng

    Jon Tseng TS Booster Posts: 47   +31

    Um, you do know that no iphones released in the last 18 months have headphone jacks?
  13. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 630   +403

    you are clearly innocent with life. So you expect your cellphone to be your all in one swiss knife in time of crisis? You know that power will be cut off right. Get the hell out of the keyboard and buy a portable radio and spare batteries and put it in your basement. Save your cellphone for calling and texting your mother.
  14. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,562   +557

    No reason not to activate it. Someone somewhere has a BS reason that wouldn't cost anyone a cent
  15. mattfrompa

    mattfrompa TS Evangelist Posts: 574   +72

    Because having two radios obviously wouldn't help anyone.
  16. Rmcrae

    Rmcrae TS Rookie

    iPhone 4-6 have FM chips, but they are not connected to anything. They are simply leftover hardware on the Broadcom (or whatever) chipset - easier to leave on and not connect rather than physically not produce as part of the chip. Everything from the iPhone 7 onwards simply doesn't have FM chips at all, let alone a headphone jack for headphones to act as an antenna.

    Apple physically *can't* activate the chips that do exist or the ones that don't exist at all.

    The FCC knows all this: they tested and approved the phones originally and know *exactly* what is (and isn't) in them.
  17. Rmcrae

    Rmcrae TS Rookie

    Can't activate what doesn't exist.
  18. erickmendes

    erickmendes TS Evangelist Posts: 481   +212

    Whatever you say.

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