FCC Chairman Encourages Activation of the FM Radio Receiver Built Into Your iPhone

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has advocated for the activation of FM radio receivers built into nearly every smartphone, as part of opening remarks he made at the Future of Radio and Audio Symposium in Washington D.C. yesterday.

fm radio iphone
Many smartphones sold today, including iPhones, have an FM receiver built into the LTE modem that would allow people to listen to FM radio over the air; however, many carriers and phone makers have not enabled the functionality, forcing users to use an app to stream FM radio over Wi-Fi or cellular data.

Pai cited a NAB study that found only 44% of the top-selling smartphones in the United States had activated FM receivers as of last year. The vast majority—94%—of the non-activated smartphones are iPhones, according to the study.

NAB FM radio chart
"We could be doing a lot better," said Pai, who was appointed as FCC chairman last month. "It seems odd that every day we hear about a new smartphone app that lets you do something innovative, yet these modern-day mobile miracles don’t enable a key function offered by a 1982 Sony Walkman."

The activation of FM receivers in iPhones would have several benefits, including battery life savings, less data usage, and most importantly, the ability to receive emergency alerts over radio without service.

"You could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone," added Pai. "The former head of our Federal Emergency Management Administration has spoken out in support of this proposal. The FCC has an expert advisory panel on public safety issues that has also advocated enabling FM radio chips on smartphones."

Pai said that while he will keep speaking out about the benefits of activating FM receivers in smartphones, he is a believer in free markets and the rule of law, and he thereby cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips, nor does he believe the FCC has the power to issue said mandate.

In 2015, an online campaign was launched to "free radio" on smartphones. It calls for U.S. carriers to activate the FM radio receivers in smartphones. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile now support the functionality, or will soon, on all or select Android-based smartphones. The campaign extends to Canada.

Apple's stance on the activation of FM receivers in iPhones is uncertain. An additional antenna would likely be required for proper FM signal reception. The latest iPod nano, meanwhile, requires connecting headphones to listen to FM radio, as the device uses the headphone cord as an antenna to receive a signal.

Tags: FCC, FM radio

Top Rated Comments

drewyboy Avatar
60 months ago
Oh, boy you mean I could get free advertisements over the air?

No, thank you. I have a radio in my car that hasn't been turned on in years.
That's the apple spirit! Because I don't use feature x, it should not be available to anyone!
Score: 55 Votes (Like | Disagree)
6836838 Avatar
60 months ago
Why not allow both. Consumer choice. If the hardware is there...! I had no idea.
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tubeexperience Avatar
60 months ago
Apple doesn't want people to listen to free radio (i.e. music).
Score: 46 Votes (Like | Disagree)
drewyboy Avatar
60 months ago
who listens to FM radio anymore unless they really have to?
Answers: Millions and millions of people. To be precise 147 million from 2015 statistic.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
derek4484 Avatar
60 months ago
Apple's not going to do it because it'll allow you to listen to radio for free, rather than having to pay them for a monthly subscription.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dwalls90 Avatar
60 months ago
I haven't listened to FM radio in years, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be an option.

We know why it's not being done... carriers can't monetize FM radio, but they can your data usage.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple california streaming event

Apple Event Announced: 'California Streaming' on September 14 With iPhone 13, Apple Watch Series 7 Expected

Tuesday September 7, 2021 9:03 am PDT by
Apple today announced that it will be holding a special event on Tuesday, September 14 at 10:00 a.m. The event will take place at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with WWDC and last year's fall events, this new event will be held digitally with no members of the media invited to attend in person. Apple will likely provide pre-taped segments for...
Apple Prefer Lightning Over USB C Feature

iPhone Sticking With Lightning Port Over USB-C for 'Foreseeable Future'

Tuesday March 2, 2021 9:32 am PST by
Apple will retain the Lightning connector on the iPhone for the "foreseeable future," with no intention of switching to USB-C, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In spite of much of the industry moving toward USB-C, Apple will not be using it to replace the Lightning connector on the iPhone 13, or indeed on any iPhone model for the time being. In a note seen by MacRumors yesterday,...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
iOS 15 icon on phone

Apple Seeds Sixth Betas of iOS and iPadOS 15 to Developers

Tuesday August 17, 2021 10:05 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the sixth betas of iOS and iPadOS 15 to developers for testing purposes, with the updates coming one week after Apple released the fifth betas. Registered developers can download the profile for the iOS and iPadOS betas from the Apple Developer Center, and once the profile is installed, beta updates will be available over the air. iOS 15 is a major update that...
maroon5memories

Apple Collaborates With Maroon 5 to Add 'Memories' Song to Photos App

Wednesday September 25, 2019 12:02 pm PDT by
Apple has teamed up with Maroon 5 to add the group's new song "Memories" to the Memories feature in the Photos app, allowing it to be used for photo slide show creations, reports Billboard. "Memories" will be available as a soundtrack option for a limited time and it is available to iPhone and iPad users running the latest iOS 13 and iPadOS software. Memories in the Photos app are created ...
it home ecommerce app iphone 13

iPhone 13 to Launch on September 17, AirPods 3 on September 30, Claims Report

Wednesday August 25, 2021 2:42 am PDT by
Apple may be planning to launch the iPhone 13 on Friday, September 17 and third-generation AirPods on Thursday, September 30, according to an image of an e-commerce app discovered by Chinese language site IT Home. The screenshot, originally posted by Weibo account @PandaIsBald, suggests all four iPhone 13 models will go on sale on September 17, followed by the AirPods 3 on September 30....
MacBook Pro Coating

Apple Launches Quality Program for MacBook Pro Anti-Reflective Coating Issues

Saturday October 17, 2015 7:58 am PDT by
Apple has issued an internal notice about a new Quality Program that addresses anti-reflective coating issues on MacBook and MacBook Pro models with Retina displays, as confirmed by multiple sources. These issues include the anti-reflective coating on displays wearing off or delaminating under certain circumstances. Apple will replace Retina displays on affected MacBook or MacBook Pro models ...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Full iPhone 13 Feature Breakdown: Everything Rumors Say We Can Expect

Tuesday August 31, 2021 7:50 am PDT by
With the launch of Apple's iPhone 13 lineup believed to be just a few weeks away, we have compiled all of the coherent rumors from our coverage over the past year to build a full picture of the features and upgrades coming to the company's new smartphones. For clarity, only explicit improvements, upgrades, and new features compared to the iPhone 12 lineup are listed. It is worth noting that...
iphone 12 colors 2021

iPhone 12 Colors: Deciding on The Right Color

Thursday November 5, 2020 8:35 am PST by
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro arrived in October 2020 in a range of color options, with entirely new hues available on both devices, as well as some popular classics. The 12 and 12 Pro have different color choices, so if you have your heart set on a particular shade, you might not be able to get your preferred model in that color. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone...