Apple says the Federal Communications Commission is getting its signals crossed.
The tech titan hit back after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called this week for Apple to activate the FM radio chips in its iPhones to aid customers caught in natural disasters, countering that the chips don’t exist in the most recent iPhone models.
But in a statement to the tech blog MacRumors, Apple said that it was impossible to comply with the FCC chairman’s request, because the “iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals.”
Pai’s request came in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which devastated Houston and Puerto Rico as well as large swaths of the Caribbean.
In its most recent report on the damage done by Hurricane Maria, the FCC noted that only 10 percent of Puerto Rico’s mobile towers are up and running. Certain areas of the island are impossible to reach via cellular, though they have radio access.
Pai argued that by not giving its customers access to FM radio, Apple was depriving disaster victims of “vital access to life-saving information” from local broadcasters when cellular networks are knocked out.
“It is time for Apple to step up and put the safety of the American people first,” he said.
But Apple said late Thursday that Pai is making much ado about nothing. The hardware giant listed a number of other safety solutions it has engineered into its products, including the ability to access emergency services from the lock screen and enabling government emergency notifications.
However, Apple’s statement failed to explain why older iPhone models — which still make up over 50 percent of the iPhones currently in use, according to research firm Localytics — can’t access FM radio.
Previous speculation suggested that Apple has the ability to flip a switch and turn on the FM chip in its phones, but does not do so because it does not want iPhone owners to…