America’s controversial Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai recently issued a statement urging Apple to enable the locked FM radio feature on iPhones.
Now before you go, “Wait, what? My iPhone has FM radio?”, Apple has issued a statement clarifying that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 DO NOT have an FM radio chip, or at least, one that can be used.
Pai’s statement, made in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which have battered away at the US and neighbouring countries, is based on the logic that cellular modems for mobile devices have FM radio chips built into them.
While the FM Radio chips may be built into the Qualcomm and Intel modems used by various cell phone manufacturers, it’s not necessarily the case that these modems are active or manufacturers may choose to deliberately disable the feature.
As ArsTechnica points out, there has been some debate on this feature, with critics insisting that the feature is deliberately disabled so as to push people to paid, digital music streaming services.
Pai urged Apple CEO Tim Cook to “do the right thing” and enable the feature, but Apple, in a statement to the press, confirmed that this is impossible on the new iPhones.
Apple’s full statement is as follows:
"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."
It is indeed possible that older model iPhones do have an FM radio chip and that Apple could, theoretically, enable the feature, but Apple hasn’t commented on that possibility.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has also been urging Apple to enable the FM radios on the iPhones, reports Bloomberg. A spokesperson for the NAB claims that broadcasters are broadcasting crucial information over FM radio bands and claim that the “notion that Apple or anyone else would block this type of information is something that we find fairly troubling.”
In its report, MacRumours also indicates that Pai has been after Apple to enable FM radio for many months now.