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

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 2017
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."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 153
    I'd like to see Apple's reasoning for not enabling the FM radio. I'm sure there's a reason why other than just we don't feel like it. 
    baconstangschlacknetrox
  • Reply 2 of 153
    ajmasajmas Posts: 555member
    Sounds like something reasonable, though I think congress would likely need to create a legal requirement for this, just like 911? Even it can't be done in current phones, regulation could make it happen in future models. Apple and other manufacturers would work out the engineering if they were mandated to, otherwise unless there is a business reason to do so, then probably won't?
    edited September 2017 jbdragon
  • Reply 3 of 153
    Good enough reason for me
    baconstang
  • Reply 4 of 153
    Pai: Hello? Trump White House: Try and kick some dirt on Apple with the FM thing again. We're getting hammered for our inept relief response to Puerto Rico. Make it sound like they're endangering people's lives. Pai: You got it.
    edited September 2017 magman1979farmboymontrosemacsmrboba1williamlondonjacobbloomberganton zuykovkenostompychia
  • Reply 5 of 153
    Maybe they'll turn it on for 99¢ a month...
    airnerdClarityToSee
  • Reply 6 of 153
    Good enough reason for me
    What do you mean?

    Personally I'm fine with the FCC pointing out to Apple the public good benefits of Apple adding an FM feature to iPhones, but they should stop short of mandating it.  There are millions of things an iPhone could do based on the technology available that doesn't make it right for the government to mandate features.

    From Apple's perspective I'm pretty sure they have already weighed the costs and benefits of supporting FM radio use and decided against it.  I expect that the costs of supporting the feature would easily outweigh the costs of implementing the feature.
    Solilibertyforallmike1airnerdwilliamlondon80s_Apple_Guyanton zuykovchiaClarityToSee
  • Reply 7 of 153

    That is why they still make battery operated radios and it is called the Emergency Broadcast Network.

    Even if the chip was activated, it assumes someone had an app loaded on the phone which could access radio stations. Why not just use the amber alert system. Oh is that because the cell tower were not working, if they were not working how does someone down load the app then.

    This is typical government solutions to a problems which is you can not fix stupid. Not to say everyone is stupid in this case, even my kids have no idea what the Emergency Broadcast Network is and know to tune into the radio.  The one and only time we heard the test on the radio my kids had no idea what it was about and why it was even needed. I hardly hear radio stations even testing it anymore.

    If people have no ideal they are suppose to listen to the radio during an emergency, what make the FCC think people would listen on their cell phones.

    I read somewhere, there was an app that people were talking about which turns your phone into a walkie talkie, and there were people tying to use these apps during the power outage trying to get hold of people to help them, they have no clue the wakie talkie feature worked over wifi. They though it was like a real two way radio so they expect it to work that way.

    Pai need to understand why the Emergency Boadcast Network was develop and why it still a much better solution with a battery operated radio than using your cellphone. The problem is most people in the county today have no clue this system exist. Who's fault is that, Pai, his organization is not forcing the system to be tested like thaey use too and not educating people about it. Not once during any of the storms did any of the major network or weather channel once say for people to stay tune to their radios for emergency information.

    During an emergence you want to keep it simple, a radio will work in most all weather conditions and a battery operated radio will work for days non-stop.

    edited September 2017 magman1979tallest skilSoliroundaboutnowschlackjbdragonrandominternetpersonwilliamlondonjahblademwhite
  • Reply 8 of 153
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,748member
    maestro64 said:

    I read somewhere, there was an app that people were talking about which turns your phone into a walkie talkie, and this people were tying to use these apps due the power outage trying to get hold of people to help them, they have no clue the wakie talkie feature worked over wifi. They though it was like a real two way radio so they expect it to work that way.

    People use the term in a general way. There are both WiFI and cellular relay apps and bluetooth relay apps that work well in a crisis because cell towers tend to stay up because they have battery backups and/or generators, and the saturation of BT-enabled devices with the app, respectively.

    Instead of an FM radio, which is one-way, perhaps it would be better for devices to have an open-source service (like the FireChat app) built-in, but I doubt that will ever happen because it would be problematic for many of the gov'ts in which Apple does business.
  • Reply 9 of 153
    I still keep my iPod nano handy just in case I need radio access (its the only device at home with radio). I think it'd be handy if congress required companies to add/activate radio chips on the phones. Perhaps companies could also develop decentralize network communication features like Zello or Firechat. It's a shame Firechat is almost dead. I tried using the other day and recommended it to friends before Maria hit Puerto Rico, but now it doesn't work reliably like it used to...
    space2001
  • Reply 10 of 153
    maestro64 said:

    That is why they still make battery operated radios and it is called the Emergency Broadcast Network.

    Even if the chip was activated, it assumes someone had an app loaded on the phone which could access radio stations. Why not just use the amber alert system. Oh is that because the cell tower were not working, if they were not working how does someone down load the app then.

    This is typical government solutions to a problems which is you can not fix stupid. Not to say everyone is stupid in this case, even my kids have no idea what the Emergency Broadcast Network is and know to tune into the radio.  The one and only time we heard the test on the radio my kids had no idea what it was about and why it was even needed. I hardly hear radio stations even testing it anymore.

    If people have no ideal they are suppose to listen to the radio during an emergency, what make the FCC think people would listen on their cell phones.

    As an Apple heavy family with multiple i-devices in each family members reach, i still have an ETON Dynamo hand crank radio (with added battery backup) in my basement. Just smart planning, that’s all. 
    jbdragonjahbladechiagregg thurmandysamoriapscooter63flashfan207
  • Reply 11 of 153
    So Pai says that having 1 ISP to choose from is enough competition to guarantee that consumer needs are met, but having dozens of phone and radio options is not enough competition to let market forces regulate the industry. 

    I have another suggestion. Wireless ISPs should allow free roaming during emergencies. 
    tallest skilanton zuykovchiacornchipdysamoriaflashfan207
  • Reply 12 of 153
    Apple would never do what the FCC Chairman Pai urge Apple to do!  It would take away some of Apple music streaming business revenue and cellular companies data usage revenue!  Apple is all about maximizing profit!  
    edited September 2017 larrya
  • Reply 13 of 153
    Uh, just because a chip has FM radio capability doesn't mean that the rest of the design ENABLES this.  Lotta good an FM radio chip inside a phone is going to do when it doesn't have an antenna and is inside an aluminum box.  The interface to enable the radio work would also require hardware that most likely isn't present in the phone.

    This is NOT like Tesla enabling higher capacity in low-end Tesla Model S vehicles-- those vehicles were DESIGNED to be software-enabled and already contain the larger battery pack.  You can't software-enable adding an antenna to a chip.

    Maybe Pai should leave the engineering to engineers and go back to doing something he's qualified for.  He seems to be good at enabling Comcast to suck even more money out of my wallet by removing those pesky laws designed to protect me.




    edited September 2017 randominternetpersonmontrosemacsmike54flashfan207
  • Reply 14 of 153
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,453member
    Good enough reason for me
    What do you mean?

    Personally I'm fine with the FCC pointing out to Apple the public good benefits of Apple adding an FM feature to iPhones, but they should stop short of mandating it.  There are millions of things an iPhone could do based on the technology available that doesn't make it right for the government to mandate features.

    From Apple's perspective I'm pretty sure they have already weighed the costs and benefits of supporting FM radio use and decided against it.  I expect that the costs of supporting the feature would easily outweigh the costs of implementing the feature.
    One assumption, and I'll emphasize that, is Apple prefers their users rely on pay-for-play services like Apple Music instead of free OTA FM.
    arlomedia
  • Reply 15 of 153
    Apple would never do what the FCC Chairman Pai urge Apple to do!  It would take away some of Apple music streaming business revenue and cellular companies data usage revenue!  Apple is all about maximizing profit!  

    I think this is apple thought process on the FM chip, however, I do not think Apple would loose listeners. I still then to listen to the radio in the car, but most people are not, i see very few people who listen to the radio anymore especially if they have a car with a USB or Aux port, People plug in their ipod/cell phones these days and listen to their streaming service or play lists.

    Do anyone know for a fact the IPhone has chip with the FM function built in. When I first heard about this years ago, I had a Motorola phone and it did not support it and I did a little research on trying to find out which chip has the function and did not find the specific information. I suspect Apple does not have the function in their phones since they control most of Silicon in the phone and probably would not waste the space for this function.

  • Reply 16 of 153
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,437member
    maestro64 said:

    That is why they still make battery operated radios and it is called the Emergency Broadcast Network.

    Even if the chip was activated, it assumes someone had an app loaded on the phone which could access radio stations. Why not just use the amber alert system. Oh is that because the cell tower were not working, if they were not working how does someone down load the app then.

    This is typical government solutions to a problems which is you can not fix stupid. Not to say everyone is stupid in this case, even my kids have no idea what the Emergency Broadcast Network is and know to tune into the radio.  The one and only time we heard the test on the radio my kids had no idea what it was about and why it was even needed. I hardly hear radio stations even testing it anymore.

    If people have no ideal they are suppose to listen to the radio during an emergency, what make the FCC think people would listen on their cell phones.

    During an emergence you want to keep it simple, a radio will work in most all weather conditions and a battery operated radio will work for days non-stop.

    Your logic is completely flawed.   People would download the app BEFORE an emergency or the app would be built into the phone, so the cell tower being down would be a moot point. 

    You don't have to learn how to "tune in" the EBS as it is broadcast on all radio stations automatically.   

    It's not about "listening", it's about the cell phone automatically being able to broadcast an emergency.   If there's a technical solution to this that will work even when a cell tower is down that doesn't involve FM radio, then fine - Apple doesn't need to turn on FM.   It's the objective that counts.  

    And the problem with battery operated radios is that people don't generally have them with them and these days, many don't have them at all.   Certainly, people should have a battery-operated radio and if the NAB had its act together, they would do a national campaign to encourage people to buy such radios, which would help both the radio manufacturers and radio stations, since if more people had radios, more people would probably listen even when there weren't emergencies.  

    But unless it's legally mandated, Apple will not do this - they won't want to do what it would take to modify the antenna.  

    But there is also a flaw in the mandate:  in such severe storms, chances are either that the radio station towers are down, the facilities are flooded or there's no one at the station to report and/or collect information.    And if the phone lines and cell towers are down, they won't be able to report what's going on anyway.
    edited September 2017 williamlondonanantksundaram
  • Reply 17 of 153
    If you live in a hurricane prone area, you should have a hand crank emergency weather radio. How would people in Puerto Rico be powering their iPhones to use as radios when they are mostly without any power anyway? These little radios can be had for like $20 now and they have flashlights, radios, can even crank to charge your smart phone. I guess Apple should also make a crank accessory? Pai is such an idiot.
    randominternetpersonboltsfan17StrangeDaysjahbladestompymike54pscooter63
  • Reply 18 of 153
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,871member
    Overly simplistic request to just activate it. Like Apple could push a software update to people with no wifi or cell coverage. Even if he means in the long term, there are several reasons apple may not want to...

    1. They would have to create an entire interface for the FM tuner that doesn't currently exist. In addition, they would need to optimize the performance of the stock FM tuner. Resources would need to be dedicated to this instead of something else.

    2. However, the most important reason would be because the user experience would absolutely suck. There is no FM antenna and therefore would be no reception. People would blame Apple when in reality they can have very little impact on the tuner performance. Just because the chip in the phone has an FM tuner, doesn't mean it's any good to begin with. The hardware would have to be designed to use a headphone (3.5mm or Lightning) as the antenna as it was in the old iPod.Just plugging in a wire does not make an antenna. Don't know how FM signals in particular hinder cell performance, but there is a lot of concern to minimize all Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) in the devices to maximize performance. So, again, hardware would likely need to be designed to implement an FM tuner.

    Not so simple. As others have noted, you can buy a transistor radio for $10 or less and for a few $$$ more, a radio with a hand-crank where batteries would not even be a concern.
    randominternetpersonwilliamlondonjahbladeGG1
  • Reply 19 of 153
    better option is a super low bandwidth robust wifi/bluetooth mesh network framework that only apple can activate during an emergency when traditional services are down to spread messages and during an outage.
  • Reply 20 of 153
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,453member
    sog35 said:
    gatorguy said:
    Good enough reason for me
    What do you mean?

    Personally I'm fine with the FCC pointing out to Apple the public good benefits of Apple adding an FM feature to iPhones, but they should stop short of mandating it.  There are millions of things an iPhone could do based on the technology available that doesn't make it right for the government to mandate features.

    From Apple's perspective I'm pretty sure they have already weighed the costs and benefits of supporting FM radio use and decided against it.  I expect that the costs of supporting the feature would easily outweigh the costs of implementing the feature.
    One assumption, and I'll emphasize that, is Apple prefers their users rely on pay-for-play services like Apple Music instead of free OTA FM.
    wrong.

    The iPhone would also have to have a 2 foot antenna to receive the FM signal.
    Despite the fact that other smartphones already offer FM radio. Gotcha. Apple can't do it. /s 
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