Apple cannot magically flip a switch to turn on FM radio in your iPhone because latest iPhones lack FM radio chips in the first place and their antennas are not suited to support FM signals.

That’s the gist of Apple’s statement following today’s demands by the FCC that it “put the safety of the American people first” and activate the FM radio in iPhones.

Apple’s response:

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.

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.

Apple’s response does not mention whether the iPhone 6 series or some of the older phones they still sell have FM chips in them. As others have pointed out, FM needs an antenna which is usually a headphone wire—and iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 lack the headphone jack.

But is there FM in iPhone 6s and earlier? If so, could Apple enable it if it wanted to and would it even work with the antenna design in older iPhones?

We don’t know because Apple didn’t comment on that. Interestingly, iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 use modem chips from Intel and Qualcomm. Could it be that Intel’s modem lacks FM tuning?

No matter how you look at it, the wording of Apple’s statement leaves room for speculation.

Following the strong hurricane season in the United States, politicians in Washington have gone on the offensive against Apple and other manufacturers.

TUTORIAL: How to manage AMBER & Emergency alerts on your iPhone

“Broadcasters are providing information on how to evacuate quickly, where flood waters are raging, how to get out of harm’s way if there’s a tornado or a hurricane,” Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said earlier this morning.

“The notion that Apple or anyone else would block this type of information is something that we find fairly troubling,” he added.

This was followed by a statement by the FCC chairman Ajit Pai who directly called on Apple to activate the FM radio in iPhones, here’s the full text:

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. And I’ve specifically pointed out the public safety benefits of doing so. In fact, in my first public speech after I became Chairman, I observed that “you could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone.”

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. As the Sun Sentinel of South Florida put it, ‘Do the right thing, Mr. Cook. Flip the switch. Lives depend on it.

Some of the critics in Washington even accused Apple of purposefully refusing to give iPhone owners access to free radio service over the airwaves for selfish reasons, to supposedly avoid cannibalizing its own radio and music streaming services.

Your take?

  • sinikel

    Before cell phones, people had land lines and FM radios. If you’re in a disaster that knocks out power like these hurricanes, you’re cell phones going to be dead in a couple hours with no way to charge it anyhow, however if you buy a battery operated FM Radio, and some replacement batteries, you can get that FM radio signal for days or weeks.

    • Rowan09

      Exactly. Everyone knew the hurricane was coming before it hit, it’s not as if people are surprise at what’s going on.

    • Mark S

      Because NO ONE has solar panel chargers and spare batteries for a phone right. Not.

  • El Tio Del Sopas

    so i guess the dream i have of owning an iphone with TV reception is imposible?

    • Luiz Claudio Eudes Corrêa

      In Brazil some smartphones (principally the cheap ones) have not only FM radio but also digital TV.

      It’s not uncommon to see people watching TV on ther phones on a bus when going home.

      • El Tio Del Sopas

        what?! you guys are living in the future, i have to get me one of those

      • Luiz Claudio Eudes Corrêa

        We use a enhanced version of the Japanese Digital TV standard (with MP4 instead of MP2 video codec)

    • Byambaa

      It’s not about packing every possible things in this phone. It’s about how apple “deeply” cares about their users, specially in disaster times.

  • T Kramer

    It is called an iPhone, not an iRadio… Good grief.

    • Byambaa

      It’s not called iAmber either, but it supports Amber alert.

      • TBorNot

        The number of children found through the use of Amber alert is (drum roll please) zero.

    • Blip dude

      So because it’s a phone we shouldn’t expect features like FM Radio and Live TV. It’s a “smart” device for crying out.

  • Juan Genao

    Cant they just use the secret transmitter the NSA uses to listen in for emergency transmissions ?

  • jacjustjac

    Well, with the vast availability of portable batteries and even solar chargers, it wouldn’t be too crazy to think that a smartphone could continue to be valuable as a radio in an emergency. Didn’t the iPad nano’s have an FM radio if connected to headphones? Hey, how about cheap solar powered FM radios instead?

    • burge

      “iPod” and yes they did but they where designed with them.

  • Bacillus

    Tim cares deeply about your life, but not deeply enough to have Joni put an antenna wire in the case. BTW he’s busy with ApplePark trees

    • niboned

      I don’t want my cell reception compromised by needing to redesign the antennas for this tripe.

      • Bacillus

        I don’t see why that should happen because it’s definitely not necessary and nobody would accept that

  • zoLa siWisa

    AMBER & Emergency alerts on South African iPhone 6s and 6s Plus iOS 11.1 is not equip, though it have all Medical ID and Emergency calling

  • JayJenkins

    Kind of upset to think that my iPhone has a built in FM tuner that Apple isn’t allowing me to use.

    Just think of all the bandwidth I could have freed up listening to the radio rather than streaming.

  • siddique

    apple is becoming suck and suck day by days blv me

  • niboned

    There’s a reason most phones don’t have this activated: it stinks. The headphone cord is the FM antenna, so headphones must be used to listen. Even then, the reception is marginal outside of a direct broadcast area. The FCC knows this. The NAB has been pushing for this for years because of declining listenership. They don’t give a rat’s patoot about public safety.

    • Galaxy Life

      Not true. That was the case years ago but you don’t need to do anything special with today’s phones.

  • Galaxy Life

    So apps like TuneIn and Next Radio don’t work?

  • Rahimo

    if my memory remembers well ! I guess the developers of cydia tweaks had created a tweak that can enables FM Radio reception on iPad 3 with iOS 7 I guess! I don’t remember very well ..