FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today called out Apple for not enabling hidden FM radio features in its iPhones. FM radio chips would allow people cut off from cell service to access vital information — like in a natural disaster the likes of which just pulverized Puerto Rico.
Pai quoted an opinion article in the Florida Sun Sentinel titled, “Allow access to smartphones’ hidden radios” which pleaded for Apple’s Tim Cook to activate the little-known FM chips inside iPhones: “We paid for these radio chips when we bought our pricey Apple phones. It’s time to let us turn them on.”
The problem? This isn’t possible on Apple’s newest phones. As a company spokesperson told Ars Technica:
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.
There are quite a lot of people who own pre-7 iPhone models, so it’s a little odd for Apple not to comment on those phones. Considering multiple other mobile providers support FM radio functions, perhaps just this once it’d be alright for Apple to fall in with the rest of the crowd.
Update: Noted Apple fan John Gruber of Daring Fireball dug into the issue, and reported the following on older iPhone models:
I’ve dug around, and what I’ve been told is that there is an FM radio chip in older iPhones, but it’s not connected, and there’s no antenna designed for FM radio. The chip is just part of a commodity component part, and Apple only connected the parts of the chip that the iPhones were designed to use. No iPhone was ever designed to be an FM radio, and there is no “switch” that can be “flipped” — nor software update that could be issued — that could turn them into one. It’s a complete technical misconception.