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Apple Responds to FCC: iPhone 7 and 8 Do Not Have FM Chips

iPhone-7-Teardown-iFixIt Credit: iFixit
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Apple has been under increasing pressure to activate the FM chips in its devices. But in a statement Thursday, the company said that it’s “not possible” to do so on newer devices.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Broadcasters and the chairman of the FCC both urged Apple to turn on FM chips in their devices. In a statement to tech journalist Rene Ritchie, however, Apple wrote that “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.”

That’s an interesting development, seeing as basically all major smartphone modems have FM chips built into them. It’s likely, however, that Apple’s chips are sourced and built specifically to Apple’s requirements — and in recent years, Apple has apparently decided to leave any FM tuner off of its chip orders.

Presumably, this means that iPhone 6s and older devices do have FM chips, but Apple doesn’t seem to be interested in activating the functionality. Of course, not that it is as easy as just rolling out a software update and turning the chips on. Even iPhones with an FM tuner built into their modems lack the antennas necessary for listening over-the-air.

Despite the lack of FM radio capabilities, Apple says that it still “cares deeply about the safety of (its) users, especially during times of crisis.” The company pointed out iOS’s Medical ID card information and emergency dialing options on the Lock screen, as well as the iPhone’s ability to receive government emergency and AMBER alerts. To check if those latter two options are on, just go to Settings > Notifications and scroll to the very bottom.

Of course, there’s an argument to be made about how useful a smartphone with FM radio would be in an actual emergency situation. Compared to a hand-cranked emergency radio, a smartphone just isn’t as durable, power-efficient or convenient to charge.

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