UPDATE: Apple has issued a statement in response to the FCC chairman saying that while it "cares deeply about the safety of [its] users", the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 don't have FM radio chips nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals.
ORIGINAL: It used to be that having an FM radio chip in your smartphone wasn’t a thing in the U.S., with many devices arriving stateside with their FM radio chip disabled. That’s changed in recent years, with both manufacturers and carriers pushing for FM radio support, and now the FCC chairman is pushing for it, too.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai has released a statement urging Apple to activate the FM chips in iPhones. Pai points to the public safety benefits of having working FM radio in a smartphone, especially given damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Here’s Pai’s full statement imploring Apple to enables the FM chips inside its iPhones:
“In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones sold in the United States. And I’ve specifically pointed out the public safety benefits of doing so. In fact, in my first public speech after I became Chairman, I observed that ‘[y]ou could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone.’ 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. I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones.
“Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so. 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. It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first. As the Sun Sentinel of South Florida put it, ‘Do the right thing, Mr. Cook. Flip the switch. Lives depend on it.’”
Previously, carriers were opposed to having FM radio chips activated in phones because if a customer is using the free FM radio, they’re not using cellular data that they have to pay for. Now carriers and manufacturers are coming around, and lately we’re reminded that FM radio is good for more than just free over the air entertainment. When cellular networks go down during a disaster, smartphone owners can still use FM radio to get information about what’s going on around them.
Does your smartphone have a working FM radio? If so, how often do you use it?