Apple's FM radio stance is 'blocking' access to emergency broadcasts

All four major wireless carriers support FM-radio activation, and a whole host of smartphone companies (all of which are significantly less profitable than Apple) now offer the feature.

Chipmakers like Qualcomm and Intel have long baked FM radio tuners into the chips that enable Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity in iPhones and other handsets.

"I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria", Pai said in a statement. However, Apple is the last holdout. FM radios that are already included in every phone could be used to access "life-saving information" during disasters, he said. "You could make a case for activating [FM] chips on public safety grounds alone", Pai writes, which sounds an bad lot like "turn on the FM radio or we'll make a rule forcing you to".

"It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first", he continued. "As the Sun Sentinel of South Florida put it, 'Do the right thing, Mr. Cook".

Lawmakers from the affected areas have also chimed in.

But FM can be a vital source of news and information for users during emergencies, Pai said.

Two of the photos in a powerful recent photo essay from The Atlantic, for instance, depict Puerto Ricans gathering around the island's few remaining working towers, struggling to get a signal.

"Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted" supporting FM, Pai concluded.

In the wake of three major hurricanes that have wiped out communications for millions of people over the past month, Pai issued a statement Thursday urging Apple, one of the largest makers of cellphones in the US, to "reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria".

And that's exactly why Ajit Pai wants Apple to enable the FM chip on its iPhones.

He added: "The FM chip is a valuable functionality, not just when times are good or when it helps you save battery life or reduces congestion on the wireless network, but especially when it's an emergency".

Pai, a Republican, has been reluctant to mandate cellphone makers offer FM radio access.

  • Joey Payne