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.