nav search
Data Center Software Security Transformation DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes BOFH

back to article
At last, someone's taking Apple to task for, uh, not turning on iPhone FM radio chips

Silver badge

People who live in hurricane prone areas

Should have one of those hand cranked weather radios. Relying on a smartphone to listen to FM is stupid, because what do you do when it runs out of juice and you don't have power?

Besides, didn't many stations go dark in the Houston area during the worst of the storm, and AFAIK they're all dark in Puerto Rico have been for some time. Ideally you'd have something that could pick up AM, since those signals travel much further so it isn't a problem if all the FM stations within range are gone.

29
1
Bronze badge

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

"Should have one of those hand cranked weather radios."

True, but having an FM receiver in your pocket would be useful in addition to that. And folk in areas where natural disasters are less common may not have one of those dedicated radios.

"Ideally you'd have something that could pick up AM, since those signals travel much further so it isn't a problem if all the FM stations within range are gone."

The advantage of FM is that you can have a small, battery/generator powered station to cover a local area, giving targeted news. Only needs to be tens of Watts.

Funny thing is, earlier today when tidying up I came across a conventional FM portable radio and reminded myself to look up the local emergency frequency and mark that on the dial, and set it in my mobile phone (not from the fruity firm).

12
2
Silver badge

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

And how many FM stations are set up to run off a battery/generator drawing only tens of watts? If anything is going to be set up for that, it would be weather radio. NOAA uses public bands a bit higher in frequency (162 MHz vs 88-108 for FM) and since it is designed primarily for emergency warnings it would likely have the necessary generators in place and fuel on site, and choose tower locations based on emergency scenarios. The number of TV and radio stations that went offline in Houston shows that few commercial enterprises care about such planning, it cuts into profits.

10
0
Silver badge

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

Should have one of those hand cranked weather radios. Relying on a smartphone to listen to FM is stupid, because what do you do when it runs out of juice and you don't have power?

Congratulations on completely missing the point. The chips are there; all the SOB has to do is use his position to get them turned on. Sure, they're not a panacea, but they can't hurt. Oh, except the corporations this administration and its minions are in thrall to.

10
14
Silver badge

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

The number of TV and radio stations that went offline in Houston shows that few commercial enterprises care about such planning, it cuts into profits.

Oooo, profits!

And how much profit did those stations lose in the days/weeks they were/are offline?

Crossing your fingers and chanting, "Hope not!", might save a few thousand short term, but will cost Beeellions in the long run!

Penny wise. pound foolish gits!

4
1
Silver badge

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

Oh, except the corporations this administration and its minions are in thrall to.

This administration?

Try every administration from LBJ to the present. (If not earlier.)

It just wasn't so blatant until the Bush's administrations.

8
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

The chips are there; all the SOB has to do is use his position to get them turned on.

I think it is you who missed the point. Even when the chips are there (they aren't in most iPhones) the FM portion isn't even connected internally. You need an antenna to receive anything. The soonest Apple could start selling phones able to receive FM would be next fall, and then only those who buy the latest model would get it.

Given that they're using Intel chips in many of them, and likely plan to use them in all phones within a couple years there isn't any point in worrying about it. Intel doesn't include FM in their LTE chip.

10
1
Silver badge

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

"And how many FM stations are set up to run off a battery/generator drawing only tens of watts?"

Any Radio Ham, car battery will do it.

In the UK RayNet exists to do this job, though not to broadcast frequencies. Local broadcast would not be much of a stretch though.

3
0

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

Regarding FM transmitters and battery/generator power: when I did some contract work for an FM station some time ago, we were required to have a week of diesel fuel for our generators (a generator capable of operating our transmitter and a generator capable of operating our studio and our microwave link to our transmitter site which was located some miles away) because we were part of the Emergency Broadcast System which was supposed to activate in the event of nuclear war or, well, a hurricane.

9
0
Silver badge

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

Oh, except the corporations this administration and its minions are in thrall to.

It's particularly ironic that a number of US telcos disable the FM functionality themselves and charge the end-user a fee to reactivate it..

So, Pai is just doing his masters bidding again and trying to gain more money for the telcos.

One other point - the headphone-socketless Apple phones would have great difficulty doing FM as they won't have a nice cable to do the receiving with. I suppose that they could bring out an FM dongle (and I seem to remember that they used to for the iPod). And, I believe that the latest phones don't have the chipset with an FM radio.

3
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

"People who live in hurricane prone areas

Should have one of those hand cranked weather radios."

Thats just a load of crap from someone who doesn't have to deal with these things. When Irma swept through, we lost power and internet and cell for three days. I hooked my Huawei cell phone, which has FM enabled to my 20,000maH power brick attached to it. I could have gone for two weeks or more. Apple should give people what they paid for. Huawei does.

2
5

This post has been deleted by its author

Bronze badge

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

You need an antenna to receive anything.

And with the removal of the 3.5 jack all bets ar off.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

...Apple should give people what they paid for.

They paid for crap and Apple just gives them that. Expensive crap but still crap.

5
3

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

> the corporations

Aren't you cool and edgy. Grow up FFS

0
2
Silver badge

Re: People who live in hurricane prone areas

<quote>And how many FM stations are set up to run off a battery/generator drawing only tens of watts?</quote>

At the heart of any FM transmitter is an exciter. It is the part of the transmitter that generates the carrier frequency, and modulates that carrier with audio.

Here is an example of one such device:

http://www.bdcast.com/products/details/analog/fx-50#tabs-1

It is a standalone 50 watt unit. With a suitable antenna, and restricting the audio to AM quality (50 - 7500 Hz), you could easily cover a 10 mile circle. AND if you will note, it is available in a 100 or 250 watt model.

If you were to download the brochure for the FM-50, you will note is AC power requirements:

AC Input Power: 97 to 133 VAC or 194 to 266 VAC, 50/60 Hz, 230 w maximum.

That puts it well within the limits of many small portable generators

Now, what is your point?

0
0
TWB

Antennae?

As much as I am an advocate of FM radio and 'proper' (IMHO) broadcasting - I think many smart phone users may be unaware they have an FM radio in their phone and in an emergency situation may well not have thought about finding a wired set of headphones to work as the antenna.

20
1
Silver badge

Re: Antennae?

You can get away with a 3.5mm Aux cable too, but some phones will insist you short some tips/rings before activating the FM radio. Once started, it's all good. Without shorting, the phone just gives the 'Headset is required for FM Radio' message.

10
0
Silver badge

Re: Antennae?

If headphones plugged into the 3.5mm are used for the antenna, I wonder if it would even work for headphones plugged into a Lightning or USB-C port? If you're using wireless headphones, forget it.

At the top of the FM band, 108 MHz, the wavelength is 2.77 meters. So even if you were willing to include an antenna over an inch long - wasting precious internal space for a feature few will ever use - you're talking about an antenna that's only 1/100th of the wavelength!

An antenna at such a tiny fraction of the wavelength is incredibly inefficient, you'd need to be very near the broadcast to pick anything up. I guess you pretty much have to use the headphones as an antenna, but that's another reason why hardly anyone uses FM on their phone....though the biggest is that commercial radio is so full of ads it is impossible to listen to. Even free ad supported streaming radio like Spotify has far fewer ads - and at least there you have a lot more choice about what you're listening to.

10
2
Silver badge

Re: Antennae?

If Radio 6 Music was on FM I would listen a lot. As it is, FM music stations are shit, so I listen to podcasts at about 25MB/h instead, or Radio 4 when's it's not being a bit shit. Or SD cards when I'm in my oven and vehicle.

When camping, a Ryobi 18v battery keeps its FM radio going for days, ditto any Sony FM radio and a few alkaline batteries.

If this guy is saying that FM radio is an emergency feature, he should mandate that phone OS should allow an aux cable to be an FM aerial (not all do unless tricked).

9
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Antennae?

In the newer iPhones with headphones that work through a custom USB socket, this might not be possible. With the older phones there was that option in theory (and it worked that way in the old iPods) although I don't know if the chip was ever actually wired up to the headphone socket. Either way, it seems to be more than just a software/firmware option to enable the FM chip, the iPhone's internal antennae are way too short at about 1/20th wavelength.

5
0
Bronze badge

Re: Antennae?

If headphones plugged into the 3.5mm are used for the antenna, I wonder if it would even work for headphones plugged into a Lightning or USB-C port? If you're using wireless headphones, forget it.

I had a Samsung feature phone that didn't require headphones to pick up FM radio. Admittedly it did work slightly better with headphones in but used USB ones so a USB cable worked just as well. In a hurricane (and I have sat through one on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA) getting any news when the power has gone off is potentially a lifesaver. It is not fun to have the EAS tones sounding on your tv and radio informing you that there is something potentially life threatening coming your way. I travel with a small Sony ICF-SW 100 which picks up SW/LW/MW/FM and uses two AA batteries. Despite this I still only buy phones that have an fm radio

6
1
Silver badge

Re: Antennae?

A convenient antenna may be hard but an emergency antenna is easy. The difference between any two metal areas can be used. For example, it could be the difference between the case and the NFC loop shield. For that you'd hold the metal case with bare fingers and place the NFC loop over another body of metal. It's crude but you could get your broadcast on where to find emergency supplies.

Alternately, the Qi charge loops would make for a pretty good AM radio antenna.

6
2
Silver badge

Meh

Several Android phones and a few cheapy nokias I've bought in the last few years have had fm receivers. According to the BBC gm is dead and we all need digital. I didn't listen to it anyway.

I recently got asked by a US company for a cheque, I had to explain we don't have those in Europe anymore.

You can see where I'm going, USA is fast becoming a living museum, no new bridges or highways for years, slow internet, FM radio and a banking system from the wild west days. But hey you have Twitter and it's (OMG so high tech) 200 odd characters to listen to your great leader.

19
8
Silver badge

Re: Meh

I'm a user and advocate of FM radio. You give other examples les of 'museum' items and I won't contest them - but FM radio can be very battery efficient. FM occupies a good spot on the [choice, audio quality, ubiquity of receivers] vs [power consumption, poor reception, faff] graph that is yet unmatched.

Of course in the UK we have the BBC, whereas in the states you have a cacophony of shouting morons. The BBC ain't perfect but occasionally get some bright folk, and they don't shout that much. The Australian ABC.net/RN is better.

18
1
Silver badge

Re: Meh

But isn't the UK pushing everyone to digital radio (DAB or similar) for what is currently provided by FM (including the BBC)?

Its not bad tech, but it's still dying... the people who listen to it are those that didn't grow up with the smart phone / streaming and thus remember it as a tech...

6
4

Re: Meh

The US banking system is almost entirely electronic now. Cheques are little more than legacy forms for initiating an ACH electronic transfer. The cheques are scanned, run through an OCR program, and then immediately submitted for transfer. Most banks and credit unions provide desktop deposit apps for scanning cheques at home or office. This is in addition to all of the paperless electronic funds transfer systems in use.

If somebody asked for a cheque, either they were new or lazy. Banks still offer old-fashioned wire transfers. International remittance services handle smaller transfers. Foreign exchange brokers handle larger transfers. Point-of-sales card networks can also be used to transfer money internationally.

Internet speeds in the US aren't far behind Europe, especially in urban areas. The real problem is that the cost of that service is significantly higher in the US.

Most VHF band II radio stations in the US now simulcast in both analog FM and digital NRSC-5 ("HD Radio"). Unlike the European DAB standard, NRSC can transmit in-channel, so there is less pressure to shut down the old analog system. Too bad that most commercial radio stations in the US are no match for streaming services.

The problem with those stories about US infrastructure crumbling is that they are often overblown. A bridge might be rated structurally deficient if the shoulders don't meet current code. And while Oklahoma and Kansas allow their roads to rot, other states do not. It is like saying that the roads in the EU suck because you use southern Italy as the benchmark.

6
1
Silver badge
Holmes

Re: Meh

FM?

REAL radio is cw.

Not a joke alert.

If you're trying to push a readable signal under the worst conditions there's still surely nothing to beat Morse Code?

Ok, not for everyone, but in emergencies the humble HAM still has a place.

And while having a clunky fm facility with dubious antenna and battery life MIGHT prove useful to some people in some cases, there's nothing like having a couple of small analogue multiband portables handy for emergencies.

And old fashioned analogue radios tend to have far better battery life.

Also many emergencies (eg hurricanes) are well predicted, though not all (eg earthquakes).

So if the regulating authorities could ease up on smoking the new digital weed to the EXCLUSION of existing tried and tested systems we might all be better off.

We need a crusty old fart icon. He'll have to do. >>

6
2
Windows

Re: Meh

Crusty old fart icon -->

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Meh

"I recently got asked by a US company for a cheque, I had to explain we don't have those in Europe anymore."

Really? I must have missed that memo. I'd better tear up my cheque book and dispose of it immediately.

4
0
Silver badge

The article says that FM radios use very little battery, which is true. However, if in an emergency scenario (phone masts disabled through wind, flood, WWW3 EMP etc) one turns on Airplane Mode (without which a phone will burn through its battery looking for a non-existant signal) the FM radio is disabled - presumably because of the architecture of these Broadcom and Qualcomm chips. Without activating Airplane Mode, the phone will soon run out of battery anyway.

Tldr buy a Sansa Clip.

11
1
Happy

My Wileyfox Swift happily receives FM when in Airplane Mode.

0
0
Silver badge

hasn't really thought this through

FM receivers need an aerial of about 75cm. Phone manufactures don't have an aerial cable coming out of the phone. They use the cable of the wired headphones as the aerial. Fun fact: this requires a headphone jack.

15
0
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: hasn't really thought this through

Fun fact: REAL radios often have a cunning device called a Telescopic Aerial. It seems to be possible to stimulate the receiver into having some kind of mechanical erection ....

Motorola experimented with something similar in the early days of mobile radio, but the thing seemed to go out of fashion.

Hey - a mobile phone that could make toast would be useful in food shortages. Should be easy to patent - most toast has rounded ....

5
0
Silver badge

Re: hasn't really thought this through

I believe the Note7 came with toast making capabilities.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: hasn't really thought this through

I did some research and its possible to use a chip antenna similar to the ones used for Bluetooth.

In fact the ones from old piezo backlight inverters with a bit of minor modification should work as they are already resonant at around 1-3 MHz in the X direction but obviously in the Z direction it would just be a matter of connecting the edges together as Gnd and HV out as Ant In.

(scuttles off to test this with the one he found in an old Sony Vaio)

0
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

Re: Google says that...

I think the Qualcomm chip used in iPhones includes FM in at least some models, but Apple has never activated it.

However, the Intel chip that Apple is using for the versions that don't need CDMA support does NOT include FM. Apple is likely to switch entirely to Intel in a couple years when Verizon switches off their CDMA and they no longer have any need for that support.

So today some iPhones couldn't enable FM even if Apple wanted to, and tomorrow none will be able to unless Pai starts calling Intel out publicly to include FM in their LTE chip.

10
0
Silver badge

Re: Google says that...

You missed the point. And your post is a copy paste job from Apple.

Many iPhones have had the hardware to receive FM radio due to the 3rd party modems, but the ability has never been activated by Apple. This is fairly well known.

Do iPhones receive FM radio? No

Do they contain an FM receiver? Yes

Also, don't copy paste the address bar of your Google search - what do you think all those characters that follow your search term are? Your search terms gave a result that had Apple's result at the top - less specific terms gave broader results.

- sent from my FM-less Nexus 5. Bah, Sony always gave me FM.

9
1
Bronze badge

Re: Google says that...

"Do they contain an FM receiver? Yes"

Not physically possible.

1
0
Unhappy

Re: Google says that...

The XZ doesn't.

0
0

How does an FM radio "save lives"?

This is a genuine question.

I'm struggling to imagine a scenario where having access to a working FM radio could make a difference between life & death. Could someone enlighten me?

4
1
Silver badge

Re: How does an FM radio "save lives"?

Flash floods like those in Houston that flooded entire neighborhoods in a matter of a few hours, dams potentially breaking like in Puerto Rico. Another major storm following on the heels of the first, like happened in some Caribbean countries.

15
2

Re: How does an FM radio "save lives"?

I get all that. Before the storm hits, mass SMS messages may be more effective (as is done for tsunami warnings). After the storm hits (when comms are down), how does an FM radio help?

4
6
Bronze badge

Re: How does an FM radio "save lives"?

I was in an area where mobile phone signals were patchy at best and had no signal before during or after the hurricane went by. I had the radio and the television on all the time because the direction of the hurricane was crucial. If the eye wall had gone the other side of us we would have had it far worse. The power line went quite early on and we were reliant on battery powered devices. There was also the risk of a nasty storm surge which would have had a mandatory evacuation coming with it. So having access to a radio was essential in that case.. Sitting in a house where you can see a very angry looking ocean from the ground floor is not fun.

14
0
Bronze badge

Re: How does an FM radio "save lives"?

... Except that SMS messages have no guarantee of delivery. There is an exception, though: Most smartphone in the US are capable of receiving wireless emergency alerts (unless you've gone in and turned them off; they are turned on by default). These are smilar to SMS messages, but go through a different system and have priority over data and voice traffic. Unfortunately, it's not a mandatory thing, so participation varies by carrier.

Presumably, FM radio would be able to do emergency broadcast alerts, which is what was used prior to everyone having a handheld computer that's connected to a wireless data network...

Oh and also, it's entirely possible for cell coverage to get swamped, overwhelmed, etc. My personal experience with that was 9/11 attacks, and just about everyone still alive in NYC tried to make cell phone calls all at once- the result of that was the cell network taking a pub break.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: How does an FM radio "save lives"?

The t UK posters in this forum know everything about hurricane emergencies sitting all the way up in the eastern north Atlantic. They get a lot of experience and know-how from being repeatedly pounded by hurricanes. NOT. You are actually showing how LITTLE you know about events like this in other parts of the world.

0
0

Meanwhile...

in Vikingland they are phasing out fm this year. Pity, I liked listening to the radio (no data!). And I still wonder what about emergency situations. So far I have not really found a good answer, but what do I know about the Viking mindset ;)

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Meanwhile...

Well at least they're safe from hurricanes, unless there's a LOT more global warming!

4
2

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing