Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai directed Apple to turn on the FM Radio chips ‘hidden’ in the iPhones to receive ‘life-saving information’ during disasters such as the recent Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, in the USA.
On Thursday, Ajit Pai released a statement demanding Apple to activate the FM chips that are in iPhones to promote public safety.
“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,” Ajit Pai said.
“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.”
“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.”
Why Apple Can’t
But Apple has denied the directive stating that it cannot turn on the radio chipset on their iPhone 7 and newer devices simply because they aren’t fitted with one.
In a statement to TechCrunch, Apple said, “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.”
The statement went on to say that the company has ‘engineered modern safety solutions’ into their products. Users have the ability to dial emergency services and access Medical ID card information directly from the Lock Screen of the iPhone.
In addition to that, government notifications such as weather advisories and AMBER alerts are enabled as well.
If the FCC wished for all devices to be able to receive FM signals, then they should’ve made it mandatory for phone manufacturers to fit their devices with FM Radio chips and enable them.
But since a mandate will go against the free market policies, Ajit Pai decided to make a case on grounds of public safety.
“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,” Ajit Pai concluded.
Radio signals are considered to be more reliable than wireless cell networks as they’re easier to receive during catastrophes than cell networks.
Now since the iPhone variants released in the past one year do not sport an FM chip, this argument won’t really work but FCC can make it mandatory for future devices to come fitted with an FM radio chip.