Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai has requested Apple to activate the disabled FM radio chips found in iPhones in the wake of the string of hurricanes that ravaged the United States in recent weeks.
FM radio signals are easier to receive and transmit during times of emergency compared to online services enabled by cellular networks. However, there is one major problem with Pai's request in relation to the new iPhone models.
Pai Renews Call For FM Radio Activation In Smartphones
Back in February, Pai said that he wanted smartphone manufactures to activate the FM radio chips of their products. Pai pointed to the fact that most smartphones in the United States have FM radio chips inside their LTE modems, but only 44 percent of the top-selling smartphones have activated them.
Pai had advocated for FM radio chip activation in smartphones for years, with public safety as one of the cases for enabling the feature.
Several months later, Pai has renewed his call, this time directly naming Apple in his request to activate FM radio chips in the name of public safety.
"It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first," Pai wrote in his statement.
Manufacturers and mobile carriers were said to have disabled the FM function, as, being a free alternative, it might pull customers away from using services that require mobile data. However, companies such as Samsung, Motorola, HTC, and LG have started selling more smartphones with the FM radio chip enabled, with the four major carriers providing a certain amount of support.
Apple, however, has resisted the trend, which is probably why Pai singled out the company in his statement.
Apple Continues Resistance, Reveals Problem With New iPhone Models
Apple responded to Pai's calls by downplaying the need for the activation of FM radio chips. In a statement, the company said that in times of crisis, owners can access the "modern safety solutions" found in their iPhones.
These solutions include the ability to dial emergency services directly from the iPhone lock screen and the enabled emergency notifications from the government, which include AMBER alerts and weather advisories.
It is unclear if the FCC has the authority to require smartphone manufacturers such as Apple to activate the FM radio chips. Nevertheless, the agency will run into a problem with Apple's 2017 iPhone models, namely the iPhone 8 and the upcoming iPhone X. This is because the smartphones have dropped the FM chips and have no antennas that can support FM signals, which means that there is no way to enable FM reception in the products.