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posted by Fnord666 on Saturday September 30, @11:06PM   Printer-friendly
from the you're-not-holding-it-right dept.

Apple would like to remind the FCC that it can't activate imaginary FM radios that iPhones don't have

Apple responded today to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who issued a statement that "urged" Apple to activate the FM chips that he claimed are in iPhones in the name of public safety. The recent hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria were the hook for the reasoning. The only problem? Apple hasn't even included FM radio chips in iPhones since the iPhone 6s.

That's right, Pai called on Apple to activate radios that don't even exist.

As John Gruber astutely points out, the statement has the stink of trying to shift blame or attention off of the FCC's own response and readiness issues. Pai has been banging the drum for months now and it's been a talking point of the NAB for years. When ostensibly asked for comment by Bloomberg, National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton said "The notion that Apple or anyone else would block this type of information is something that we find fairly troubling." Again, the radios do not exist in iPhones and haven't for over a year now.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Samsung to "Unlock" FM Chip in Galaxy S9 and Future Smartphones 21 comments

Samsung says it will be unlocking the FM chips in its future smartphones:

Samsung and NextRadio on Wednesday announced the handset-maker will begin shipping phones in the US and Canada with the FM radio chip unlocked. Currently, Samsung was shipping some devices with the FM radio access unlocked, while others (often dependent upon carrier whims) had a locked FM radio chip.

An unlocked FM radio chip in a smartphone not only provides free access to local radio stations, but also, in emergency situations, access to important information.

What is NextRadio?

Emmis Communications is an American media conglomerate based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The company owns radio stations and magazines in the United States and Slovakia.

[...] The NextRadio smartphone app was developed by Emmis, with support from the National Association of Broadcasters, to take advantage of mobile devices with activated internal FM receivers. NextRadio allows users of select FM-enabled smartphones to listen to live broadcast FM radio while receiving supplemental data such as album art, program information, and metadata over the internet. Launched in August 2013 through a radio industry agreement with Sprint Corporation, the app is available preloaded on select devices it is also available for download in the Google Play Store.

Do you need to use their app to access the FM chip? The press release says:

Market leaders like Samsung are taking the step of unlocking the FM Chip, which will allow Samsung users to connect directly with the NextRadio app, listen to their favorite local stations, and use less battery and less data than streaming radio apps.

Take "unlocked" with a grain of salt.

Previously: FCC Chairman Encourages Activation of FM Chips in Smartphones
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai Calls on Apple to Activate Imaginary FM Chips

Related: Smartphone with FM Radio Tells Your Position
Developers Working to Get FM Radio Function Enabled in BQ Ubuntu Phones
Norway to Become 1st Country to Switch Off FM Radio


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by takyon on Saturday September 30, @11:13PM (15 children)

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Saturday September 30, @11:13PM (#575401) Journal

    The FCC should just force all new smartphones to include FM receiver functionality and allow apps to access it [cnet.com]. What's that going to add to the SoC size? 0.5mm2?

    But Ajit Pai is a corporate stooge so he will "urge" instead.

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    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by hendrikboom on Saturday September 30, @11:25PM

      by hendrikboom (1125) on Saturday September 30, @11:25PM (#575404) Homepage

      The FCC could also urge all manufactures to provide the software necessary to access the FM radios in any phones that do have FM radios.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Snotnose on Sunday October 01, @12:03AM (12 children)

      by Snotnose (1623) on Sunday October 01, @12:03AM (#575409)

      I don't have a problem with this. I spent 20 years at Qualcomm, I went through the chip spins where they tried to get GPS to not interfere with the phone, and vice versa. I imagine getting FM working is the same issue. Myself, the FM band is a wasteland of Clearchannel crap. But if I were in Puerto Rico right now I'd be depending on it for news.

      Apple has a different issue. FM typically uses the headphone wires as an antenna. Apple now has wireless headsets. So now are they not only easier to lose, costlier to replace, but they also can't function as an antenna. Add the antenna into the handset or the existing antennas? Non starter. You need at least a 1/4 wavelength antenna in a city, and the iPhone is nowhere near long enough for a 1/4 wavelength antenna.

      • (Score: -1, Troll) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday October 01, @12:12AM (2 children)

        by Ethanol-fueled (2792) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01, @12:12AM (#575414) Homepage Journal

        FM radio can eat a dick. I was an NPR listener for many years, but their behevior during the last election was so disgusting that I migrated my daily drive listen to AM 1360 (San Diego) and never looked back.

        It was a revelation. Who would have thought that hearing a few guys bullshit all day was more enriching than hearing Jew shills screech all day?

        • (Score: 3, Funny) by takyon on Sunday October 01, @12:28AM (1 child)

          by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday October 01, @12:28AM (#575421) Journal

          I'll update my comment: "The FCC should just force all new smartphones to include FM/AM receiver functionality..."

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          • (Score: 1) by anubi on Sunday October 01, @06:38AM

            by anubi (2828) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01, @06:38AM (#575490)

            Tachyon: I certainly agree.

            When I was purchasing my first "smart" phone, one of the big selling points to me is the model I chose had both GPS and FM. The idea is I wanted to have ability to use the phone for things even if I was out of range. Say, out in the desert in the middle of nowhere, or that "big one" earthquake that Southern California has been expecting so long.

            I do not believe for an instant that there is anything sacred about Southern California and Bad Things just can't happen here. It is my belief that should we face anything like Houston, New York, or Puerto Rico faced, we will have completely overloaded cellphone/internet, but the AM/FM/OTA TV are likely to remain functional.

            The whole incentive behind my purchase is that in the event of being caught "with my pants down", I am likely to have my wallet, car keys, cellphone, glasses, and wallet on me. The cellphone may be my only way to get info, but I can't expect the cell system not to overload, nor the servers, and I thoroughly expect priority service to go to first-line emergency responders.

            I was really pissed to find out my phone apparently has to connect through the internet to some server somewhere to get the "local stations" for me. Geez, can't I even be trusted with a tuning dial these days without someone "working with" the manufacturer to make sure they get into the loop?

            I bought a modern TecSun shortwave radio a couple of years ago. It has no trouble at all finding stations. It scans till it finds one, locks onto it until I press one of its buttons to tell it to find me another. Would that have been so hard to implement on a phone?

            Can anyone recommend some good Aptoide apps that manage FM radio and GPS chips without having to "phone home"?

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            "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by fyngyrz on Sunday October 01, @12:28AM (6 children)

        by fyngyrz (6567) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01, @12:28AM (#575420) Homepage Journal

        I went through the chip spins where they tried to get GPS to not interfere with the phone, and vice versa. I imagine getting FM working is the same issue.

        Not so much. GPS is 1575.42 MHz and 1227.60 MHz; Cellular is 800-900 MHz-ish; FM broadcast is 88-108 (US... slightly different elsewhere.) Wifi and bluetooth are also up in the GHz range, well above FM broadcast. Only the GHz range stuff transmits, and interference is almost always harmonically related in the upwards direction, so that won't readily interfere with FM frequencies.

        Yes, the earphone cable is typically used as the FM antenna, and Apple (in an incredibly user-unfriendly move) removed the earphone jack, so FM is problematic for the new designs unless they fix them to use standard earphones again.

        My Galaxy phone didn't support FM until a fairly popular petition pushed Verizon in the right direction, at which point viola, one update later, FM worked fine. With, as noted, the earphones plugged in. Of course, you know, Samsung designed the phone to work, as opposed to Apple, who designed the iPhone 6 and prior, according to them, to not work.

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        Sunglasses are the window shades.
        • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Sunday October 01, @12:36AM (3 children)

          by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday October 01, @12:36AM (#575424) Journal
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          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by fyngyrz on Sunday October 01, @12:41AM

            by fyngyrz (6567) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01, @12:41AM (#575426) Homepage Journal

            Yes, there are interesting options for antennas. Fractal antennas are another one that can offer surprisingly good results.

            Still, the earphone cable is easy, and it's there. Well, when the manufacturer isn't busy screwing the customer out of their audio investment, of course.

            --
            The eyes are the windows to the soul.
            Sunglasses are the window shades.
          • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Sunday October 01, @12:42AM (1 child)

            by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday October 01, @12:42AM (#575427) Journal

            The Si4708/09 [silabs.com] takes up 6.25mm2. The Apple A10 [wikipedia.org] SoC has a die area of 125 mm2 and the Apple A11 [wikipedia.org] is 87.66 mm2. The Si4708/09 is from 2010 so I assume there is a smaller receiver by now that would soften the blow of bloating the ever-shrinking Apple SoCs.

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            • (Score: 3, Informative) by frojack on Sunday October 01, @12:49AM

              by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01, @12:49AM (#575431) Journal

              These FM receivers (for those phones that had them) were never in the SOC, they were almost always embedded in the wifi chipset, which was (back then, at least) a separate chip.

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        • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Snotnose on Sunday October 01, @01:15AM (1 child)

          by Snotnose (1623) on Sunday October 01, @01:15AM (#575437)

          Not so much. GPS is 1575.42 MHz and 1227.60 MHz; Cellular is 800-900 MHz-ish; FM broadcast is 88-108 (US... slightly different elsewhere.) Wifi and bluetooth are also up in the GHz range, well above FM broadcast. Only the GHz range stuff transmits, and interference is almost always harmonically related in the upwards direction, so that won't readily interfere with FM frequencies.

          You don't quite get how mysterious this stuff can be. In the mid to late 90's a friend of mine was in the antenna group. This was when phones had retractable antennas. His group was trying different alloys in different configurations to figure out what worked and what didn't. Did I mention he was a geology Ph.D? Hella smart, no relevant training at all. He was also the guy that first told me about Burning Man, he always said how he liked to go there, get naked, and whatever. Did I mention he was hella smart?

          Anywhoo, it was maybe 10 years later they were trying to get GPS and cellphone to work together. I was purely software, but for every chip that came down the line I got a memo "disable GPS", and rumor was it interfered with cellphone performance.

          WiFi and Bluetooth came long after Qualcomm got GPS and cellphones working together.

          The other thing you have to keep in mind, outside of RF issues, is battery issues. CDMA means the phone sleeps for 90% of it's time, waking up every few ms to ask "um, do I need to send anything? Anything come in for me? No? I'm going back to bed". Bluetooth messes with this timing. I assume WiFi does as well, even though I never worked on the WiFi software.

          • (Score: 3, Informative) by fyngyrz on Sunday October 01, @11:30AM

            by fyngyrz (6567) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01, @11:30AM (#575533) Homepage Journal

            You don't quite get how mysterious this stuff can be.

            Oh, I get it, all right. I designed RF systems for a living for decades, and still write SDR software [fyngyrz.com] today. RF is my thing.

            Believe me when I tell you that RF interference tends to go upwards. There can be other issues - power supply, for one instance, shared front end overloading for another - but an FM broadcast receive radio in proximity to a GHz level rx/tx system isn't really a problem for either set of capabilities. Which is why you find all of the foregoing in wifi chipsets.

            --
            The eyes are the windows to the soul.
            Sunglasses are the window shades.
      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by frojack on Sunday October 01, @12:43AM (1 child)

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01, @12:43AM (#575428) Journal

        The thing is, even when Apple did have FM in the phone, they never admitted it. They never advertised it.

        The Tear-down people found it by looking at the chipsets installed.

        FM was built into the Murata wifi chiipset 339s0228, but unlike HTC and Samsung, Apple never wired the antenna pin to the headset jack in any of their models. They never mentioned it at all. (Why admit their circuit designers did a crap job?)

        Apple never bought that chipset with the idea of adding wifi, they bought it because it was the low-bidder for a wifi chipset. The fact that they didn't use half the capabilities of the chip didn't matter to them, it did what they wanted for a cheaper price (and less power) than that offered by the competitors.

        So instead of just telling people "we never wired that pin" Apple plays this closed mouth super secret we're so cool crap for years and denies there ever was an FM radio. It was there all along, waiting for some kid with a Mouser catalog to embarrass them.

        And for all we know its still there in one or more of the chipsets. You have to dig pretty deeply into the datasheets of these devices to find all the things they can do.

        (FM radio is exceedingly simple to add on to any radio receiver chip and it will never interfere. Its usually either on the wifi/bluetooth chip, or - less commonly, on the cellular radio).

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        • (Score: 4, Informative) by captain normal on Sunday October 01, @05:38AM

          by captain normal (2205) on Sunday October 01, @05:38AM (#575484)

          "The thing is, even when Apple did have FM in the phone, they never admitted it. They never advertised it."
          Of course they didn't. If people could just pull stuff to listen to out of the air, that would cut into iTunes revenue.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday October 01, @03:29AM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday October 01, @03:29AM (#575461)

      But, the "user experience" would be crappy - if you "held it wrong" even the emergency broadcast FM signals might not be received.

      Anyone living in the hurricane's path have any problem with NOT receiving enough notification that the storm was coming? We certainly got more notification than anyone should ever need, including emergency notifications on our phones (not FM based).

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @12:26AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @12:26AM (#575419)

    I used to live 1/2 mile from an AM radio station transmitter that had multiple giant antennas. One day my toaster was buzzing to a beat. I unplugged it and the heat coils were still buzzing a tune. Landlines and other AM radio stations were a problem too as all you could hear was 1970s KCBQ shows.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by frojack on Sunday October 01, @01:04AM (1 child)

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01, @01:04AM (#575435) Journal

      Since it was AM 1170, 50,000 watts, on a tall steel tower your toaster was probably picking it up up 73.1, 146.5, 585,, 1170, 2340, 4680, and associated multiples and fractions. The tower itself re-radiated fractionals all up and down the spectrum.

      Its amazing the amount of power AM stations put out.
      And its amazing how far you could hear them on a cold winter night.

      They served a purpose back then. With no internet, these big stations tied the country together. You might never know there was any other kind of music that what your local "DJs" played were it not for the fact you could listen 5 states away some times.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_50_kW_AM_radio_stations_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @10:17AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @10:17AM (#575519)

        Its amazing the amount of power AM stations put out. And its amazing how far you could hear them on a cold winter night.

        I won't be surprised if some people can actually hear radio broadcasts without a conventional receiver: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrophonic_hearing#Radio [wikipedia.org]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @01:08AM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @01:08AM (#575436)

    Many of the iPhones do have FM radio chips TFS last sentence says so.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @01:28AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @01:28AM (#575439)

      The "source" is John Gruber, of course he's going to lie to defend the Cult of Apple.

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @01:59AM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @01:59AM (#575443)

        Every single chipset with a qualcomm chip set in it has an FM radio. None of the ones sold in the US have the antenna pin soldered on. All of the US carriers deemed it to be that way. The OEMs want to sell phones through the carriers do what the carriers tell them to. Most of the ones sold in the rest of the world do.

        So even if Apple could 'flip a switch' and turn it on. It would not work.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @02:26AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @02:26AM (#575454)

          Every single chipset with a qualcomm chip set in it has an FM radio.
          None of the ones sold in the US have the antenna pin soldered on.

          Every BlackBerry 10 device that I owned or used had FM radio, all
          purchased for and in the US.

          All of the US carriers deemed it to be that way. The OEMs
            want to sell phones through the carriers do what the carriers tell them
            to.

          Ah, yes. Nevermind.

        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by frojack on Sunday October 01, @03:41AM (1 child)

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01, @03:41AM (#575463) Journal

          The carriers couldn't care less about FM. Apple had iTunes and you need look no further for the reason why FM was not welcome on the iPhone. Android really didn't have a good paid music service at first so they just threw in the FM radio app.

          --
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          • (Score: -1, Redundant) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @03:50AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @03:50AM (#575465)

            And all the android phones? Those have iTunes also right?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @09:51AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, @09:51AM (#575511)

    and you are being a douche.

    I guess all the iphones before 7 have been destroyed? Especially in god damn Puerto Rico, where i bet all the people just junk their iphones immediately when a new crapapple is released.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Sunday October 01, @08:47PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday October 01, @08:47PM (#575670) Journal

      Ajit Pai isn't doing shit on this issue, just making noise:

      FCC chief wants smartphones’ hidden FM radios turned on, but won’t do anything about it [theverge.com] (February 16, 2017)

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      • (Score: 2) by realDonaldTrump on Sunday October 01, @11:15PM

        by realDonaldTrump (6614) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 01, @11:15PM (#575707) Homepage Journal

        If you have a regulation you want, number one, we’re not gonna approve it because it’s already been approved probably in 17 different forms. But if we do, the only way you have a chance is we have to knock out two regulations for every new regulation. So if there’s a new regulation, they have to knock out two. We’re cutting regulations massively for small business and for large business. 🇺🇸

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