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.


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.


"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

(View all)
Avatar
47 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)
Avatar
47 months ago
Why not allow both. Consumer choice. If the hardware is there...! I had no idea.
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
47 months ago
Apple doesn't want people to listen to free radio (i.e. music).
Score: 46 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
47 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)
Avatar
47 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)
Avatar
47 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

iPhone 12 Lineup Rumored to Be Named 'iPhone 12 mini,' 'iPhone 12,' 'iPhone 12 Pro,' and 'iPhone 12 Pro Max'

Monday September 21, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared the alleged naming for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup on Twitter. The tweet proposes that the upcoming iPhone 12 models will be titled "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max." The names likely correspond to the three expected sizes of iPhone 12, with the 5.4-inch model being the iPhone 12 mini, the 6.7-inch model ...

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...

Hands-On With iOS 14 Widgets, Custom Icons, and Home Screen Setup

Tuesday September 22, 2020 3:25 pm PDT by
Apple with iOS 14 introduced widgets on the Home Screen, leading to unprecedented levels of customization for the iPhone. Combined with Shortcuts that let you change an app's icon, iOS 14 lets you create a whole new look for your Home Screen. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've been following along with some of the creative alternative Home Screen designs that M...

PSA: New Apple Watch Owners Have to Return Entire Device for Ill-Fitting Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop

Monday September 21, 2020 3:26 pm PDT by
With the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced two new band options, the Solo Loop and the Braided Solo Loop. These new bands are unique because they have no clasps, buckles, or other fasteners, and instead use a stretch design to allow them to pull onto the wrist over the hand. Because these bands are not adjustable, Apple sells each one in nine different sizes to make sure each person...

Apple's iPhone 12 Event Could Happen on October 13 Based on Rumors From Mobile Operators

Wednesday September 23, 2020 11:51 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone-centric event could perhaps be held on Tuesday, October 13, according to information shared with MacRumors by an employee at a UK cellular carrier. There's no way for us to confirm the dates at this point in time nor are we sure on the credibility of the source, but even without a rumor, Tuesday, October 13 is a good guess based on Apple's historic launch timelines, ...

New Images Leak of iPhone 12 Braided USB-C to Lightning Cable

Thursday September 24, 2020 2:37 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple's upcoming iPhone 12 models will ship with a new Lightning to USB-C cable that includes a braided fabric design. Images of the purported cables were leaked in July, and today leaker Mr White has shared new images that give us a closer look at what we might get included in the iPhone 12 box. The photos show a USB-C to Lightning cable with a clearly braided design rather...

Interest in iOS 14 Home Screen Ideas Helps Pinterest Break Daily Download Record

Wednesday September 23, 2020 4:37 am PDT by
Apple's introduction of widgets on the Home Screen in iOS 14 has driven a surge in interest among users looking to customize their iPhone, and that has reportedly had a knock-on effect for Pinterest, whose iOS app has seen record downloads as users flock to its content seeking design inspiration. As reported by TechCrunch, App Store intelligence firm Apptopia was first to note the impact of ...

Apple Releases First Public Betas of iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 With New Shazam Control Center Options

Monday September 21, 2020 10:34 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 updates to its public beta testing group, a few days after seeding the first betas to developers and a little less than a week after releasing the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS‌ 14.2 updates over the air after ...

Apple Emphasizes That Solo Loop May Increase in Length Over Time, Updates Sizing Guide With More Specific Instructions

Wednesday September 23, 2020 8:26 am PDT by
Apple on Tuesday updated one of its support documents to emphasize that the new silicone rubber Solo Loop for the Apple Watch may increase in length over time, as mentioned in fine print at the bottom of the Solo Loop product page. Apple has also updated its printable Solo Loop sizing guide with more specific instructions, as noted by 9to5Mac's Michael Steeber. The guide now advises users to ...

Microsoft Announces Outlook for Mac Redesign, Improvements to iOS and watchOS Apps

Tuesday September 22, 2020 8:56 am PDT by
Microsoft has today announced plans to bring a new design to its Outlook for Mac app along with several other improvements and features for Outlook on iOS and watchOS. In preparation for the public release of macOS Big Sur, Microsoft has been testing a new design for Outlook on Mac. The design includes Microsoft's Fluent icons and several design cues from Big Sur such as rounded corners....