FCC chairman Ajit Pai decided to take on a new battle, this time with Apple. Pai says that he wants Apple to activate the FM radio that is inside all iPhones, in the name of public safety. This is a reason for doing this and we’ll discuss it.
Most all smartphones these days that are sold in the US have a FM radio chip inside. The chip is easy and cheap for chip-makers to install, and consumers in other countries see the FM radio chip as useful. Networks in the US have resisted putting radios in smartphones for a long time, since they see listening to radio as a competitor to paying money to networks for streaming music over data.
In a statement, Paid said that “I hope [Apple] will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.” He has a point, however. If cellular networks were to go down, FM radio is a good backup to distribute public information to everyone.
In wake of #Harvey, #Irma, & #Maria, I'm calling on @Apple to activate FM chips in iPhones to promote public safety. https://t.co/H2AvC7Am8f pic.twitter.com/ErYW9LL6nX
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) September 28, 2017
This position has gotten softer over the years. All four major US carriers allow smartphones with FM radios to be sold by them. You’re able to use the FM radio chip inside Android devices from brands such as LG, Samsung, and HTC. Apple on the other hand is holding out, even though the chip is inside iPhones. Apple has a software lock on it from being used or activated.
Pai added that there may be regulation coming to force Apple to activate the chips, if it doesn’t do so voluntarily. “You could make a case for activating [FM] chips on public safety grounds alone,” Pai writes.