Every now and then we’ll hear of a hack that allows Apple customers with jailbroken iPhones to unlock the FM radio that Apple prevents us from using. None other than the National Association of Broadcasters has asked Apple to switch on that FM radio you already have in your iPhone but probably didn’t know existed.
Apple’s response? Silence.
Why? What’s wrong with FM radio? From Apple’s perspective, FM radio is like a swarm of bees around your picnic table. Nothing good will come from the mix.
There are both technical issues and user issues which keep your FM radio sidelined and out of reach. First, there’s no FM antenna, so radio reception isn’t likely to be very good and that would reflect poorly on Apple, not the FM radio station’s signal strength or the location (I can easily picture dozens of iPhone customers standing in line at the Genius Bar in the nearest Apple Store, each with a complaint about poor FM reception). Putting in an effective FM antenna along with all the other antennas in the iPhone might be an engineering challenge and might explain why FM radio isn’t something you see on iPhone’s competition.
Second, Apple is protective of home grown turf. The company makes money when you use iTunes. iPhone customers buy music and store it on their devices. FM radio would mean less music sales for iTunes, less profit for Apple.
Third, Apple tends to focus more on the future than the past, and radio– even FM– is about as ancient as you can get. The future of radio isn’t, well, radio in the traditional sense. Norway has plans to push FM off the dial from next year as listeners switched over to DAB (digital audio broadcasting) and online streaming. As efficient as a broadcast signal is, streaming is taking over.
Fourth, FM radio audio quality is superior to AM radio, but that’s barely a notch above telephone quality, so, again, streaming radio stations can provide for improved audio quality. And, speaking of quality, please note that radio stations– for the most part– are commercial endeavors and up to one third of an hour broadcasts commercials instead of news and entertainment. And we complain about websites with too many ads?
FM radio is about the past and just doesn’t have enough going for it for Apple to bring it into the future. Or, the present.