In response to criticism from Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel that the agency simply wasn’t doing enough to adequate address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, where some 90% of cell phone service remains out and several radio and TV stations still have not returned to the air, Chairman Ajit Pai responded by noting the FCC continues to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
He also took the opportunity to implore, but not enforce, Apple to activate the FM chips in all iPhone headsets.
It seems there’s one small problem: All iPhones newer than the iPhone 6 don’t have FM radio chips in them, nor do they have antennas designed to pull in FM radio signals.
Scroll down to see a special RBR+TVBR Observation from Editor-in-Chief Adam R Jacobson on this very important subject.
Technology blogs and news organizations seized on Apple’s comments, with Techcrunch reporter Matthew Panzarino snarkily noting, “That’s right, Pai called on Apple to activate radios that don’t even exist.”
Panzarino added that the FCC should know this, as it “must test all radio devices thoroughly before they are eligible for sale in the U.S.” He continued, “[T]here is no regulation that says any phone manufacturer must do this — which is why there is a shaming campaign going on involving the Chairman of the FCC and a radio broadcasting organization to get Apple to enable radios that it does not possess so that more devices can receive radio.”
In a widely distributed statement confirming that FM radio chips can be found only in iPhone 6 models and older versions of the iPhone, Apple noted, “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.”
The statement will likely cause radio broadcasting statements to erupt in anger, assailing Apple for limiting the level of information consumers may need during a time of emergency.
But, tech blog Daring Fireball investigated what is inside the iPhone 6. Yes, there’s an FM chip. But, there is no antenna designed for FM radio and it is not connected.
“The chip is just part of a commodity component part, and Apple only connected the parts of the chip that the iPhones were designed to use,” the blog’s John Gruber notes. “No iPhone was ever designed to be an FM radio, and there is no ‘switch’ that can be ‘flipped’ — nor software update that could be issued — that could turn them into one. It’s a complete technical misconception.”
Gruber then took his own swipe at Pai.
“What’s absurd is that the FCC commissioner would take his understanding of the iPhone’s technical capabilities from a newspaper editorial rather than from Apple’s own FCC regulatory filings, which I’m pretty sure would show that they’re not capable of acting as FM radios,” he wrote.
Techcrunch further elaborates, “The FM block is simply not there in current iPhone radio chips. It may look the same but it’s not on the chip at all. Broadcom would need to re-spin the chip to add the stuff Apple would need back in. They’d also need, of course, to connect it up (which it never was even in the older phones) and build in an antenna and change its WiFi chip and add back in a headphone jack to use the headphones as an antenna.”
NAB EVP/Communications Dennis Wharton was quick to comment on Apple’s statement regarding Chairman Pai’s support of the activation of FM chips in iPhones.
“Since 2012 NAB has commissioned quarterly ‘tear down’ reports from ABI Research on a wide variety of Smartphones to discover their capabilities,” he says. “ABI’s analysis reveals that every Apple iPhone built during that time, including the iPhone 7, has a chipset that includes support for FM radio. Apple also continues to sell an iPhone 6S with an FM chip that is not activated, and there are nearly 100 million iPhones in the marketplace with a deactivated FM chip.”
The NAB welcomed the opportunity to work with Apple to activate FM chips on future handsets.
RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION, by Editor-in-Chief Adam R Jacobson
Oh, Snap! Pai just got schooled by Apple! Boy, those Gifted Gabbers drinking Kool-Aid from the Genius Bar sure set the record straight with those out-of-touch GOP goobers in Washington, didn’t they! Please … We own iPhones. The tit-for-tat doesn’t help us — residents of Broward County, Fla., who appreciate the tornado warnings that arrived via iPhone alerts over a span of 24 hours, without electricity, earlier this month during Hurricane Irma. We had no TV. We had no internet. And, using data to stream WTVJ-6, WSVN-7, WFOR-4, WPLG-10, or WPEC-12 — all TV stations offering audio simulcasts via FM radio partners in Miami and West Palm Beach, respectively — would have drained precious battery levels from our iPhones.
Apple cares “deeply” about the safety of its users. Really? Mr. Cook, get on a private jet and fly right now to Luis Muñoz Marín Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico and hold a press conference at the Port of San Juan reaffirming your arrogant, asinine and ill-advised statement.
“Modern safety solutions” don’t really matter when you’ve got no electricity and 90% of all cell phone towers in a U.S. territory are still out of service. Whoopdee-doo, you have the opportunity to “dial emergency services.” Mr. Cook, take a big, deep look at the following map, provided by none other than the FCC:
Dude … you’re Apple. The iPhone is the best handy, mobile, cell, or whatever you call your smartphone. Get smart and make the changes needed in the design and manufacturing chain now.
The FM chip isn’t there. Well, put it there!
We await the snarky response from Silicon Valley bloggers who will likely have a perfectly good reason why they can’t.
We pray that a catastrophic earthquake does not strike Palo Alto or Sunnyvale.
That’s because these Tech Titans likely don’t own a radio, and that’s a matter of life or death.