FCC asks Apple to turn on FM chips that don’t exist

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai issued a statement that pushed for Apple to activate FM chips in its phones. Although his missive focused on the laudable goal of public safety in emergencies, the pointed dig at Apple appears misguided. Apple iPhones haven’t contained FM chips for more than a year.

“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 said in its own statement responding to the FCC.

Analyzing teardowns of older iPhone models shows that even those might not have the required hardware to make FM chips functional. John Gruber of Daring Fireball said the FM chips aren’t connected and can’t simply be switched on through a software update.

When technology develops quickly, regulation is usually slow to adapt. Pai has been a vocal supporter of FM chip activation, and many phone manufacturers have voluntarily opted to take that route. But there are no requirements around FM chip activation in mobile devices and no standards requiring those products to even contain FM chips. For a federal leader to claim moral high ground while making a criticism based on technical misinformation doesn’t cast that agency in a good light.

Anna Washenko