Apple urged to activate iPhone’s FM radio chip after hurricanes wreak havoc

“For 19 nonstop hours as Hurricane Irma lashed Florida, disc jockey Nio Fernandez broadcast updates in Spanish from the 92.5 Maxima radio studios in St. Petersburg, fielding updates from those trapped in their homes as wind and rain whipped through the area,” Daniel Flatley reports for Bloomberg. “‘There was a sense of desperation in people’s voices,’ he said of callers to the station. ‘They needed to know what was happening.'”

“Fernandez’s efforts made it possible for listeners who had lost power, cell or internet service — as many in the region had — to keep up with the storm’s progress using FM radio chips embedded in their smartphones,” Flatley reports. “But not iPhone users. Though the phone includes the FM chip, Apple Inc. has chosen not to activate the feature, a move critics say could be putting lives in danger.”

“Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is leading calls for mobile phone manufacturers to activate the FM radio chips embedded in nearly all smartphones. Those exhortations have been mainly directed at Apple, whose iPhone accounts for more than 40 percent of the U.S. smartphone market,” Flatley reports. “Critics say Apple doesn’t want to cannibalize its streaming service by giving iPhone owners access to free radio service over the airwaves. An Apple spokeswoman said the company wouldn’t comment on the matter.”

“FCC Chairman Ajit Pai devoted several minutes of a speech at a February symposium in Washington to the benefits of activating FM radio chips in smartphones. He said that, as of last year, only 44 percent of smartphones in the U.S. had their FM chips activated… At the same time, he has refused to call for a mandate requiring the chip be activated in the phones and has expressed doubt that the FCC would be able to issue or enforce one,” Flatley reports. “Pai renewed his calls for manufacturers to enable the chip during a recent trip to areas of southern Florida devastated by Hurricane Irma, telling a local TV station that the chips were valuable, ‘especially when it’s an emergency.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If the market demands it, Apple will supply it.

BTW, portable AM/FM radios can be had for under $10 on Amazon.

FCC Chairman Pai encourages activation of Apple iPhone’s built-in FM radio chip – February 16, 2017
NAB calls for Apple to switch on an iPhone feature you didn’t know you had – April 20, 2015


    1. I suspect that the reliance on FM radio is for after a disaster strikes. Prior to the disaster, you can probably use things like cellphones and the internet, but after disaster has struck, FM radio is a means of mass communication which is likely to to remain operational and could be the only practical way to tell people which roads are impassable, which nearby places are ruined or when help will arrive and in what form. It could be the only way to warn people of a second catastrophe, such as a tsunami or clouds of noxious materials.

  1. Your glib comment about 10$ radios on Amazon has nothing to do with the demand. My iPhone is with me every waking hour and at arm’s reach near my glasses when l sleep.
    Also, safety features are not connected to daily needs. I’ve had a fire extinguisher since 1995 that I’ve never used(got it checked out a few times). Glad l have it, hope to never use it

    1. If you can use TuneIn, you’re using the internet to receive streams from those stations, so can access whatever information you like anywhere on the internet. The idea of FM reception after a disaster is that it’s a method of wireless communication when most other utilities ( electricity, internet, cellphone, TV ) have failed. Satellite TV will still work, but the chances are that most people will not have power to operate their TVs, while a battery FM radio should work for many days on one set of batteries.

      Major FM transmitters are hardened against failures, with redundant facilities, standby power generators and alternative antenna, so they should be able to function to a reasonable extent after a disaster.

  2. 2 hurricanes in 11 months here in north Florida, both times losing power, cable and internet. Cell service stayed, but just barely. Internet was non-existent but texting worked. A radio is vital after everything goes to hell because it can give tornado warnings and flash flood warnings.

    Not everyone plans ahead. But even the best laid plans can go awry. My wife carefully laid out everything we might need post storm, but we spent the worst of Irma in the laundry room with trees crashing around and on the house. Our phones were always with us, working as flashlights if nothing else. If Apple can activate FM radio, they should.

    1. The iPhone 7 and later iPhones don’t have FM reception ability built into the RF chip. Older iPhones with the Murata RF chip could have been designed to allow FM reception, but it would have needed to have been done during the hardware design process and can’t be done retrospectively and certainly not by some sort of over the air software patch.

  3. Off topic, I’m listening to iTunes and reading MDN, have several MDN pages open at the moment. Every time I close one and select the next MDN page, my music stops playing, running IOS 11.

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