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Communications Government Apple

FCC Chief Tells Apple To Turn on iPhone's FM Radio Chip (cnet.com) 235

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai pushed Apple on Friday to activate the FM radio chips in the iPhone. From a report: In the wake of three major hurricanes that have wiped out communications for millions of people over the past month, Pai issued a statement 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." FM radios that are already included in every phone could be used to access "life-saving information" during disasters, he said. For years the majority of smartphones sold in the US have included FM radios, but most of them have been turned off so that you couldn't use the function. Why? Mobile customers would be a lot less likely to subscribe to streaming music services if they could just listen to traditional, free broadcast radio. This incentive is especially true for Apple, which has a streaming music service. Apple said in a statement: "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."
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FCC Chief Tells Apple To Turn on iPhone's FM Radio Chip

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  • by WillRobinson ( 159226 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @04:50PM (#55272057) Journal

    No internal antenna.

    • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @04:52PM (#55272081)
      Head of FCC tells Apple to bring back the headphone jack. That's what the headline should say.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TexasDiaz ( 4256139 )
      When Apple removed the audio jack in the iPhone 7, they removed the ability to plug in an antenna to the device - in Android devices, you have to plug wired headphones into the audio jack to act as the antenna for the radio. But why would the FCC chairman blow smoke out his bunghole without speaking directly to them first? Is it some unwritten requirement that they have to publicly shame themselves rather than putting on their big-boy pants and actually directly talking to someone? It seems like if you're
      • Lots of people don't have the latest, greatest iPhones. They still own phones WITH the audio jack, so it would benefit millions.

        Apple's answer referred to the iPhone 8, like that's the only version out there. They wish.
        • There's no amplifier on those phones with an analog audio jack. So even if the situation was as simple as enabling a software change (it isn't) the FM reception would be complete shit. You'd have to stand under the transmitter to get a usable signal.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        So simply require that they put it back for emergency purpose, it's called regulation in the public interest. Why would you think it would be bad for the government to be able to broadcast to the public in times of emergency. It's kind of common sense, especially in light of the growing number of weather based disasters. Instead you applaud, it cost $5, people should shut up and die instead, that's GOD blessed profit, just ask the majority of US politicians.

        • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

          Perhaps it's because Apple isn't a radio manufacturer. If people need a radio receiver, they can buy one. Every corner drug store in the US sells FM radios in some form or another.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Grishnakh ( 216268 )

        The people at Apple have already proven themselves to be asses, so why should he bother?

        I'm not a fan of this Pai guy at all so far, but I'd become his biggest fan if he made a ruling that all smartphones needed to have FM radio capability, even if that means bringing back the headphone jack. Even better if he made it retroactive, and Apple was forced to recall and replace all their shitty jack-less phones. (And another bonus if, as the other poster said, they forced them to change iOS to change the shitt

        • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

          I'd be a fan if Pai issues a ruling that all shits going by the moniker Grishnakh had to gargle with hydrochloric acid every morning.

      • When Apple removed the audio jack in the iPhone 7, they removed the ability to plug in an antenna to the device

        If you believed the had the audio jack wired to the never enabled FM receiver, you are a fucking moron.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      antenna dongle

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Android phones in Europe use the earphone socket cable as an antenna - No external antenna

      • Android phones in Europe use the earphone socket cable as an antenna - No external antenna

        Most Android phones use the earphone ground as an antenna cable, which certainly is an external antenna. The fact that it is also the shield on the earphone audio doesn't mean it isn't also an antenna.

    • Use the charging port. Apple is always saying how they can't comply with the EU's microUSB charger mandate because the Lightning charging port they use is so much more capable than USB. So it should be trivial for them to connect an FM antenna lead to it.
      • Use the charging port. Apple is always saying how they can't comply with the EU's microUSB charger mandate because

        ... there is no such thing. Stop pretending.

    • No internal antenna.

      Just connect something to the headphones jack, and here is your antenna.

  • Television? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @04:52PM (#55272079)
    When I was in Korea a few years back I was intrigued to see everyone on the subway watching OTA broadcast TV on their phones. This wasn't "streaming" video coming in over their data plan - The phones and tablets had antennas that extended from them and they were watching broadcast TV.
    • in the USA they want everyone to buy subscriptions to everything, satellite radio, streaming music by paid subscription, netflix, everything is being geared to milk the consumer for money, i refuse to play their cash cow game fuck em they can FOAD for all i care
      • I pay a small fortune for cable television I don't use. I recently went to just having local channels and I am still paying though the nose for the stupid 'FIOS triple pack'. When I call them and tell them I want just have internet they tell me I will have a 'cool down period' where I will have no internet if I do this.

        It's a rip off.

        I'll take: HBO - for GoT and Westworls, Startz - for American Gods, and now CBS All Access - for ST: Discovery and iTunes - for everything else any day. At least I know why I h

    • by yo303 ( 558777 )
      In Korea only old people stream video.
    • When I was in Korea a few years back I was intrigued to see everyone on the subway watching OTA broadcast TV on their phones. This wasn't "streaming" video coming in over their data plan - The phones and tablets had antennas that extended from them and they were watching broadcast TV.

      There are only a couple of manufacturers of Android ATSC tuners that can plug into a phones usb port, I suppose because the demand is low. You can find a few more options for DVB-T

    • Re:Television? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo AT world3 DOT net> on Thursday September 28, 2017 @05:44PM (#55272459) Homepage Journal

      This is called 1seg. Started in Japan, it's low quality 12 FPS video but easier and more reliable to receive on the move. Many cars have it, I was really surprised to see people watching TV while driving.

      The name of because it uses one segment of the available digital TV spectrum. It trades quality for extra error correction and redundancy.

      • The South Korean version of this is called DMB [wikipedia.org] and is distinct from but similar in concept to 1seg. The US might see this some day in the form of ATSC-M/H.

        All of them are similar in they use H.264 for video and HE-AAC for audio multiplexed in an MPEG transport stream.

      • by Ark42 ( 522144 )

        But if you have a 1seg-capable phone, the NHK man can come collect fees from you, even if you never use it. I'm glad my phone doesn't have 1seg because I bought it from the states.

    • by Trogre ( 513942 )

      My no-name Android tablet came with an inbuilt TV antenna and analogue receiver. It worked fine for three months before my country moved to digital TV and re-allocated the analogue TV frequencies to cell phone carriers.

  • my LG G6, which I hate and its a slow chunk of crap, just tells you to plug in a set of headphones for an antenna cause FM radio is not that hard to pick up

    That doesn't really help if the receiver part of the chipset is just terminated, but it really wouldn't kill anyone to enable that feature in the future

    • by fisted ( 2295862 )

      My LG L40 can receive FM without connecting an external antenna. I wonder why this isn't possible in a device that costs many times that from the same manufacturer...

      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        I dunno but they botched everything IMO, I thought it would be a decent phone with my previous experiences with LG, but its lethargic in everything it does, the LCD screen is nothing to write home about either

      • by Xenx ( 2211586 )
        My first guess, and I'm not knocking the phone, the LG L40 is a bulkier cheap plastic phone. Most people don't care about FM radio, so why bother making room for it in the premium devices where they're striving for minimize everything but the display?
        • by fisted ( 2295862 )

          Could be, though the G6 is substantially bigger (a bit thinner though) and has 8.7 cm^3 more volume than the L40

  • He could try to shame the tech companies to support his plan or he could use the FCC authority to do so. But of course to Pai that would be a outrageous attempt at interference with the free markets, no matter how many lives it saves
  • Having an FM tuner is one of the requirements when I change my Android phone (the others being 4G, USA+Europe frequencies, 3.5mm headphone jack, SDXC >64Gb, screen >=1920x, screen >=5.5", removable battery, >2Go mem, >16Go onboard, 150g). This being said the last 3 phones I've had had shitty radios that kept on changing channel by themselves. I have no idea why. I suspected that the cabling of the earphones had something wrong and sent some fake 'next channel' signal, but it happens with diff
    • Strange, the phones I have (Galaxy SII, Moto G2, Zenfone 2) all have FM radio and I never had a problem with channel changing, maybe if it's in your pocket the touchscreen is getting touched. I'm a bit like you and always buy unlocked phone with audio jack and SD card, and $300.

  • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @04:56PM (#55272107)

    iPhones were shipping with the FM support disabled long before Apple Music or Spotify existed.

  • by WillRobinson ( 159226 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @04:59PM (#55272123) Journal

    Why not just buy like a transistor radio with solar cell charging, their very cheep. Where's my Swiss knife pop out of my Iphone, that would be more useful.

    • Why not just buy like a transistor radio with solar cell charging, their very cheep. Where's my Swiss knife pop out of my Iphone, that would be more useful.

      It's ironic that you mention a single purpose built device in the same post as a multipurpose tool, and compare the two.

      The only thing useful is the device you have with you. That is precisely why the Swiss army knife is great in a pinch but not a very good knife, or scissors, or nail file, or (insert other function here). What good is the solar power transistor radio if it's somewhere else in a box I can't find when I need it?
      What good is my Miyabi pearing knife in my kitchen when I'm at work?

  • In an emergency my pocket radio powered by 2 AA batteries will significantly outlast any smartphone. And last time I checked you could even get them with a crank handle that recharges batteries using a dynamo . Emergency, what a dumb excuse.
    • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

      > In an emergency my pocket radio powered by 2 AA batteries will significantly outlast any smartphone.

      Does that go with you to work? Is it on your person right now?

      • Actually, yes.
        I also have ethernet cables, USB-Serial Adaptors, Bootable USB sticks (OSX), Various Mac cables (USB-C, Thunderbolt, Firewire, etc) A Torch, a Multitool , my laptop, etc etc etc

        Plus there is another radio in my car (as well as phone charger) and another LED based emergency torch, etc + water, first aid kit, and a toolkit.
      • by narcc ( 412956 )

        I keep one in the house, one in each car, and one on my desk at work.

        They're inexpensive, often less than $20, and could very well prove invaluable in an emergency.

        It's the same reason you likely keep a first aid kit all of those places, like I do.

        Of course, unlike the first aid kit, the hand-crank/solar radio doesn't require regular replacement. They're essentially a one-time cost. The one I have next to me is more than 10 years old and still works as well as the day I bought it. It just seems foolish n

  • by GerryGilmore ( 663905 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @05:01PM (#55272141)
    As Apple pointed out, their phones truly just do not support OTA radio broadcasts. But Pai could not be bothered to uncover this little technical fact first....Now, if he were really serious about this "life-saving" stuff, he could use his R majority on the FCC to mandate that - after, say, 2020 - all smartphones sold in America must be able to receive and play OTA broadcasts but the chances of THAT happening are below zero.
    • Pai didn't specify iPhone 7's and 8's now, did he?

      • He said "flip the switch" which could reasonably be interpreted to mean existing products. Regardless, specific models of iPhones would be a technical detail. His statement was without any technical detail whatsoever (beyond 'switch'). There is an ulterior motive here and it has nothing to do FM broadcasts for hurricane victims and more likely to do with the FCC poking Apple on behalf of the NSA. I know that sounds like tin-foil hat talk, but these days, nothing is outside the realm of possibility and nothi
  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @05:03PM (#55272149)
    Tell Samsung, Tell Pixel, Tell Motorola, tell ALL the smartphone manufactures to turn on the FM radio chip so i can at least get local broadcast FM radio music, news and weather
    • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @05:15PM (#55272245)

      Tell Samsung, Tell Pixel, Tell Motorola, tell ALL the smartphone manufactures to turn on the FM radio chip so i can at least get local broadcast FM radio music, news and weather

      Many of those devices already to have their FM radios enabled, but lack software to drive them. I use the free NextRadio [nextradioapp.com] app on my Kyocera Hydro Vibe and it works great. It uses the headphone wire as an antenna, so they (or a speaker) must be plugged it, but you can also output through the built-in speaker.

      Here's the official list of supported devices [nextradioapp.com]. Note that my device wasn't listed when I first installed the app, but it worked anyway. I sent some feed back telling them it worked and my device is now listed.

      • I use the free NextRadio app

        NextRadio demands to know where you are so it can ... "look up" local radio stations, before it will allow you to use the tuner to find your own. It makes you go through two opt-out pop-ups just to keep it from tracking you using GPS, and then sits at a "zip code" entry page with no way past.

        It is probably not a good choice for FM tuner in an emergency, since the network will be down and it won't be able to look up stations for you.

        • One might think you'd have already installed the software prior to the cataclysm. Also, nothing prevents you from saying "no" to the GPS request, nor from providing an alternative ZIP if you really don't want to offer your real one. It simply assists with station presets.
        • I use the free NextRadio app

          NextRadio demands to know where you are so it can ... "look up" local radio stations, before it will allow you to use the tuner to find your own. It makes you go through two opt-out pop-ups just to keep it from tracking you using GPS, and then sits at a "zip code" entry page with no way past.

          It is probably not a good choice for FM tuner in an emergency, since the network will be down and it won't be able to look up stations for you.

          Previously the app only provided FM usage. Looks like the app has been updated in version 4 to add a streaming mode and use more data in FM mode. In streaming mode, it works like any other streaming app. In FM mode, there are now two levels of functionality: enhanced and basic. When a data connection is available (WiFi or mobile) it uses some data to get your location, local station information and download tiles of the current songs playing. Without a data connection it is simply a manual FM tuner.

          Previo

      • by jwhyche ( 6192 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @06:23PM (#55272771) Homepage

        I have a samsung S7 and I can't believe that actually worked.

      • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @11:44PM (#55274205)
        I was curious about NextRadio so I installed it. My device (LG G2) wasn't on the supported list, but it detected my location, and showed me my local FM stations. They played great.... I was suspicious.

        So I turned off WiFi and Mobile data, and the stations stopped dead. This fucker was ***STREAMING*** audio to my phone over a data connection, not using the FM tuner. Also, for some reason, it needs access to your files and photos.

        Unsurprisingly, I uninstalled it.
        • So I turned off WiFi and Mobile data, and the stations stopped dead. This fucker was ***STREAMING*** audio to my phone over a data connection, not using the FM tuner. Also, for some reason, it needs access to your files and photos.

          Previously the app only provided FM usage. Looks like the app has been updated in version 4 to add a streaming mode and use more data in FM mode. In streaming mode, it works like any other streaming app. In FM mode, there are now two levels of functionality: enhanced and basic. When a data connection is available (WiFi or mobile) it uses some data to get your location, local station information and download tiles of the current songs playing. Without a data connection it is simply a manual FM tuner.

          Previ

        • There's two possible explanations for this behavior that come to mind for me.

          First, the FM receiver is so tightly integrated into the WiFi/Bluetooth/cellular chip that it is impossible to disable one without also disabling the other. This may in fact be desired behavior to comply with "airplane mode" requirements.

          Second, the software developers decided to include the ability to stream the radio station audio to make up for poor FM reception when cellular or WiFi is available.

          I don't use NextRadio but I've

          • I didn't disable the radio chip, I disabled WiFi and Mobile data only. Voice calls are still active, as was bluetooth.

            What really ticks me off is that the app didn't give me any kind of warning that I was going to be using data for its service. I would expect an app not to misrepresent itself.
    • My Moto G1, G4 and G5 all have FM hardware and software by default.
    • Just install the software, e.g. NextRadio [google.com]. Or can't you be bothered to go to the app store? FM radio works perfectly well on my S8+ (US model).
    • My Samsung Galaxy SII and my Motorola G2 both have FM radio, unlocked.

  • by TheFakeTimCook ( 4641057 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @05:06PM (#55272181)

    In order to get FCC Approval, Apple has to submit not only samples of their "production-ready" Phones; but full documentation, including SCHEMATICS and SPECIFICATIONS...

    TO THE FUCKING FCC!!!

    But now, that same Clue-Free MORON has the temerity to attempt to make Apple look like "Bad Guys" that have simply REFUSED to "turn on" that which does not exist!

    And he Bloody-Well SHOULD have known that, BEFORE he even made his "Demand"!!!

    FFS! Our Tax Dollars at Work...

    • But...how do you know it doesn't actually exist? Have you seen the full schematics? Do you work for apple.
      Sure, apple told you it doesn't exist. But they also produce the iTunes application, and anyone responsible for that monstrosity has no clue whatsoever as to what's real and what's not.

    • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

      But now, that same Clue-Free MORON has the temerity to attempt to make Apple look like "Bad Guys" that have simply REFUSED to "turn on" that which does not exist!

      And we should just trust apple because they say it doesn't have one? Both AT&T and Samsung have told me that my S7 doesn't have a radio chip in it. An i trusted them and left it at that. Well turns out it does. I just tested it myself..

      • But now, that same Clue-Free MORON has the temerity to attempt to make Apple look like "Bad Guys" that have simply REFUSED to "turn on" that which does not exist!

        And we should just trust apple because they say it doesn't have one? Both AT&T and Samsung have told me that my S7 doesn't have a radio chip in it. An i trusted them and left it at that. Well turns out it does. I just tested it myself..

        Well, as someone else posted, due to iFixit teardowns, you don't have to take Apple's word for it; that is, assuming you can read a part number and a datasheet.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      REFUSED to "turn on" that which does not exist!

      Maybe. Maybe not.

      Does Apple have a different hardware model for the Indian market? Because FM radio in your phone is a pretty important over there. Don't have one and you won't be selling any phones in India.

      • REFUSED to "turn on" that which does not exist!

        Maybe. Maybe not.

        Does Apple have a different hardware model for the Indian market? Because FM radio in your phone is a pretty important over there. Don't have one and you won't be selling any phones in India.

        Strawman.

        TFA was about the FCC, which means it only pertains to iPhones for the US market.

        Can't speak to the Indian model; for some reason, there doesn't seem to be an iFixit teardowns of that one...

  • Sure, most of the wifi/bt chips have an FM radio built in too.
    It enable the feature it requires an antenna. It's usually done via the headphone cable, as you can't really make a decent antenna for ~100MHz signals inside a phone. The optimal length is around 1.7m. The headphone jack needs low-pass filters so it can be used an antenna. It can't be electrically connected to the metal body of a phone without a filter.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Sure, most of the wifi/bt chips have an FM radio built in too.
      It enable the feature it requires an antenna. It's usually done via the headphone cable, as you can't really make a decent antenna for ~100MHz signals inside a phone. The optimal length is around 1.7m. The headphone jack needs low-pass filters so it can be used an antenna. It can't be electrically connected to the metal body of a phone without a filter.

      More than that, really. You need an antenna, and you need a I2S connection to your CODEC chip (

      • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

        And yes, I'll go with transistor radio, because those can get AM radio, which is where I'd go for my news. FM is full of Clearchannel crapola so even in an emergency I probably won't think to turn on FM radio.

        Don't just top at AM if you are getting one for emergency. Get one that handles the shortwave bands too. The shortwave bands can pick up radio from all around the world so the can get signals that are come from outside of a disaster area. If the disaster is big enough it might take out all the AM stations in range of your radio.

  • Why? Mobile customers would be a lot less likely to subscribe to streaming music services if they could just listen to traditional, free broadcast radio

    Is that really the justification? Seems pretty weak. My car has an FM radio, yet I still choose to pair it with my phone so I can listen to streaming stations -- radio is not a substitute for a station where I get to pick the music.

    And since cellular providers are always whining that their customers are eating up valuable cellular bandwidth with streaming (which forces them to cap "unlimited" plans), seems like they'd be *happy* to reduce streaming.

    • Radio signal wobbles in and out. Even FM is shit quality. I don't understand why people want the buzzing, crackling, and volume-swaying experience of FM instead of the crisp, clear, consistent experience of BlueTooth.

      Even AM radio is better-quality than FM. The signal has better reach and better power; it responds really poorly to electrical interference (FM doesn't).

      • I don't understand why people want the buzzing, crackling, and volume-swaying experience of FM instead of the crisp, clear, consistent experience of BlueTooth.

        Because I can pick up FM stations from 50 miles away, and the bluetooth signal fails at 50 feet. And that "consistent" bluetooth "experience" has failed while walking around the campus here, where 2.4GHz wifi is swamping everything else on the band. The phone is about 8 inches from the headset and it drops out. But you're comparing apples and oranges.

        Even AM radio is better-quality than FM.

        Wow. It must be radio hell where you live for AM to be better than FM.

        The signal has better reach and better power;

        "Better reach" is a side-effect of the frequency band being used and depends a lot on t

  • by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) * on Thursday September 28, 2017 @07:09PM (#55273067)

    Pai could read up on WEAs [wikipedia.org]. They work with existing cell phones with no additional hardware necessary. They use out of band signaling so a flooded network does not affect them and cell sites don't actually need MSC connectivity to send them out.

    Pai could also call out the CTIA et al, for dragging their feet and suing the government to not be required add backup power to cell sites. This was something the FCC mandated after Katrina but got thrown into legal limbo for years by the CTIA.

  • If you happen to have an iPhone 6 and can get internet for the âoeupgradeâ to FM radio, you can get your news. How much is a FM radio these days? And a purpose built radio will work head and shoulders above a radio inside a cell phone with no antenna. Sheesh.

  • Just jailbreak your iPhone, then you can switch on the radio chip. I do it all the time, and switch on the microwave chip every time I need to reheat a coffee.
  • With a system that's designed to only stay "alive" for ~120 hours in standby and has ~20 hours of low-power (like FM radio) usage. Puerto Rico is facing months of power loss, I'm pretty sure very few of the iPhone/Android devices on the island are powered at this point.

    If you want people to listen to FM radios, provide them with them with one that doesn't require power, you know like a crystal radio, you can get them mass-produced under $0.50 - so for less than 1 year of Ajit's salary, you can provide the E

  • What a dummy. Everyone knows you have to download your FM radio shows using iTunes at $1.99 per station.

  • It should read, "Idiot Bureaucrat Demands the Impossible."

    It's almost like FCC Chairman Pai barely know what's going on in one of the industries he regulates.

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