Ajit Pai, the Chairman of US telecoms regulator the FCC has criticized Apple for not activating FM functionality that the latest phones don’t even possess.

Scott Bicheno

September 29, 2017

2 Min Read
FCC’s Pai barks up the wrong tree with Apple FM attack

Ajit Pai, the Chairman of US telecoms regulator the FCC has criticized Apple for not activating FM functionality that the latest phones don’t even possess.

“In recent years, 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,” wrote Pai (pictured) in a public 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. I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones.

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

Pai also referred to an emotive editorial published by the South Florida SunSentinel today entitled ‘Allow access to smartphones’ hidden radios’, which by total coincidence makes almost exactly the same point. South Florida, of course, was the part of mainland USA most affected by the recent hurricanes.

The only problem with all this public safety grandstanding, it seems, is that the functionality they insist is just a flick of the Apple switch away doesn’t actually exist. In an emailed response to MacRumours, Apple said the following. “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.”

Oh dear Ajit, that’s a bit awkward isn’t it? Maybe there’s some residual credibility to be had from older iPhones not covered in the Apple statement. In its analysis of that issue Daring Fireball notes that even if latent FM radio functionality is included on the phone’s SoC, you still need a special antenna to make it work, which no iPhones have.

The analysis concludes with the inference that Pai’s statement is probably a crude attempt to distract attention from the criticism the FCC has been receiving for its response to those very same natural disasters. Pai was appointed by Trump and seems to be learning quickly from the misdirection playbook.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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