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Pai urges Apple to activate iPhones’ hidden FM Radio

 - Stresses public safety imperative

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has called on Apple to activate FM chips on iPhones after a series of devastating hurricanes left millions of Americans from Texas to Puerto Rico in desperate need of access to the life-saving information that Radio stations provide during and after disasters.  Of all the major smartphone manufacturers, only Apple locks the iPhone’s FM chip to prevent users from listening to local Radio.

Smartphone users with activated FM chips can listen to local Radio when their headphones are connected to the device’s headphone jack.


As Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were raking over communities in Texas and Florida this summer, Radio listeners were using their non-iPhone smartphones for updates on flood warnings, evolving evacuation orders and other vital information.                                                                                   

“I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria,” Pai said in a written statement.

“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. It’s time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of American people first.”

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democratic appointee, joined Pai in admonishing Apple to activate its iPhone FM Radio chips.

Apple directly rebuffed Pai’s call and said the new iPhone 7 and 8 don’t have an FM Radio chip, but the NAB’s technology department has since proved that statement is partly untrue.

Quarterly “tear down” reports of smartphone capabilities by ABI Research, commissioned by NAB, show that every Apple iPhone built since 2012 – iPhones 4, 5, 6 and 7 – has an FM Radio chip.

Even though the new iPhone 7 no longer has a headphone jack, headphones connected to the Lightning port with an adapter can still serve as an antenna.

Congressional leaders weigh in for public safety

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Florida, is leading bipartisan calls in Congress for all mobile phone manufacturers to activate the embedded FM chips, focusing particularly on Apple whose iPhone has captured about 27 percent of the American mobile market according to comScore.

Neither Nelson nor Pai has called for a legal mandate that Apple or any other company activate the FM chips, though Mexico adopted such a regulatory mandate earlier this year and a push for similar action reportedly is under way in Canada.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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