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FCC chairman urges Apple to activate FM radios in iPhones in light of recent disasters [u]

The chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, has renewed pressure on Apple to turn on the FM radios hidden inside every iPhone, citing how useful that might have been during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. [Updated with Apple response]




"Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so," Pai said in a statement on Thursday. Some makers with FM-enabled devices include Samsung, Motorola, and LG.

"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," Pai wrote. "I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones."

Apple should "step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first," he concluded. Pai has previously refused to make FM support mandatory, but has also advocated for inclusion.

The company could be worried about FM diverting iPhone owners away from iTunes, Apple Music, and Beats 1, but more likely is that the company can't simply turn FM on, and is unwilling to alter its designs to make the feature practical. The defunct iPod nano had its headphones double as an FM antenna, but the iPhone 7, 8, and X don't even have a 3.5mm headphone jack —that would likely mean having to add or modify antennas solely for the sake of FM.

Update: In a response to MacRumors's Joe Rossignol, Apple said that the iPhone 7 and 8 have neither the chips nor the antennas needed for FM radio.

"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," Apple said in a statement. "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."