FCC urges Apple to activate FM radio chip in iPhones -- but newer models can't
By Mike Murphy
FM can be a life-saver during a natural disaster, Ajit Pai says
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai urged Apple Inc. on Thursday to activate FM radio chips in its phones in the interests of public safety during natural disasters.
One problem: Newer iPhones don't even have an FM chip.
In a statement, Pai laid out the case for activated FM chips, which can give cellular phones the ability to tune in to potentially life-saving information over the radio during a natural disaster, especially when cellular networks are knocked out, as they were when recent hurricanes battered the U.S. and Caribbean.
A week after Hurricane Maria, the FCC said 90% of cell towers in Puerto Rico are still out of service, as are two-thirds of the ones in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
FM radio signals can travel much farther than cellular data signals, making them a potential lifeline in an emergency. Every major smartphone manufacturer that sells in the U.S., including Samsung Electronics Co. (005930.SE) , Lenovo Group's (0992.HK) Motorola, LG Corp. (003550.SE) and HTC Corp. (2498.TW) , has FM-activated chips in their most popular phones. Except one.
"Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so. But I hope the company will reconsider its position," Pai said.