Apple under pressure to activate iPhone feature it denies

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iPhone FM radio chips
iPhone has FM radio chips, but Apple won't use them.
Photo: Alan Levine/Flickr CC

Apple is under pressure to activate an iPhone feature that it claims does not exist.

The National Association of Broadcasters is calling for the company to enable dormant FM chips that would allow users to tune into radio stations. It comes less then a month after the Federal Communications Commission asked for the same.

Listening to the radio doesn’t require cutting-edge technology. Cellphones had this capability long before the rise of smartphones. Radio even gave us music streaming on the iPod before services like Spotify and Apple Music took over.

The iPhone can offer the same functionality, according to experts, but Apple won’t provide it. The company denies that its latest devices have the required chips, but both the FCC and the NAB believe FM components have been integrated into its smartphone for years.

The pressure for radio is mounting

Now the NAB, in a post on its blog, is asking Apple to rethink its decision to leave those components dormant. It points to recent disasters and national emergencies, which leave hundreds without cellphone service and internet access, to support its request.

“Tear-down reports from multiple research firms indicate the iPhone has long used a communications module that supports three key wireless networks: WiFi, Bluetooth, and FM radio,” reads the post, titled “Setting the record straight on FM radio in iPhones.”

“Apple’s iPhone is a phenomenal device and does so many things well. We hope they recognize that activating the FM capability would make it even better for all of their customers around the world.”

The request comes less than a month after FCC chairman Ajit Pai called for Apple to do the same. Pai said Apple “is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted” activating the FM radio chips inside its devices.

“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,” he added. “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.”

It might not be so simple

In Apple’s defense, it might not be so simple to add FM radio to the iPhone. Although its devices might have the necessary hardware, the NAB admits that the company “does not connect” antenna leads that would be required to pick up radio signals.

This isn’t something that can be fixed with a software update, then. What’s more, most devices use wired headphones connected to a 3.5mm jack as the radio antenna. This obviously isn’t possible on more recent iPhones, which do not have that jack.

Apple could provide a fix

If anyone can find a fix for this, it’s Apple. It could provide internal radio antennas on future devices, or allow Lightning-connected headphones to double as an antenna.

Sure, you can listen to the radio over the internet in most cases. There are plenty of iOS apps that allow that. But when the internet and cellular service isn’t available, the ability to tune into FM radio stations could be a lifesaver.

Via: AppleInsider

  • MaH

    I have every song at my fingertips with various music apps. Why the heck would I want radio?

    • Paul Gravestock

      Its not about the music.The whole point is to be able to use FM Radio to receive emergency announcements transmitted by FM stations. If a natural disaster disrupts cell reception, power, and wifi, then FM broadcasts are a simple way of staying aware of events, and receiving information such as safe evacuation instructions.

      • BenGie Cruz

        This would’ve been super handy the past month here in Puerto Rico!