Most people probably aren’t aware that older iPhones (and many Android phones) even have FM radio receiver chips in the first place. After all, no iPhone has ever been able to function as an FM radio, although some Android phones have.

So why did Apple choose to add that FM radio hardware in the first place, if Apple doesn’t plan on actually using it? The answer is that Apple didn’t choose to add the FM radio hardware—not really.

Despite Apple’s marketing, which would lead you to believe each part inside the iPhone was designed and manufactured by Apple itself, they aren’t. On an iPhone 6s, the LTE modem for connecting to the cellular network was created by Qualcomm. You can see this if you look at teardowns done by websites like iFixit, which rip apart devices and identify their various components.

Specifically, Apple chose to use the Qualcomm MDM9635M LTE modem for the iPhone 6s. This Qualcomm part comes with FM radio receiving functionality included, as many other Qualcomm modems do. It’s just easier for Qualcomm to include all these features in its hardware and allow device manufacturers to disable them as needed.

Should FM Chips Be Required and Enabled?

The big argument for enabling FM radio functionality is public safety. FM radio receiving functionality would allow people to receive emergency broadcasts in the case of natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, even when the cellular network goes down.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents radio and television broadcasters, has asked manufacturers to enable the radio functionality on their phones. Congress has held hearings on this in the past, too. But former FCC commissioner Tom Wheeler decided not to require smartphone manufacturers to include this feature, a decision even current FCC commissioner Ajit Pai agrees with.

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