For 19 nonstop hours as Hurricane Irma lashed Florida, disc jockey Nio Fernandez broadcast updates in Spanish from the 92.5 Maxima radio studios in St. Petersburg, fielding updates from those trapped in their homes as wind and rain whipped through the area. “There was a sense of desperation in people’s voices,” he said of callers to the station. “They needed to know what was happening.”
Fernandez’s efforts made it possible for listeners who had lost power, cell or internet service—as many in the region had—to
keep up with the storm’s progress using FM radio chips embedded in their smartphones.
But not iPhone users. Though the phone includes the FM chip, Apple Inc. has chosen not to activate the feature, a move critics say could be putting lives in danger.
The issue has drawn fresh scrutiny following hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico, and parts of Texas and Florida. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is leading calls for mobile phone manufacturers to activate the FM radio chips embedded in nearly all smartphones.
Those exhortations have been mainly directed at Apple, whose iPhone accounts for 40 percent of the US smartphone market.
“Broadcasters are providing information on how to evacuate quickly, where flood waters are raging, how to get out of harm’s way if there’s a tornado or a hurricane,” said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. “The notion that Apple or anyone else would block this type of information is something that we find fairly troubling.”
The group, which represents radio-station owners, has been lobbying the industry for several years to allow phone users access to the FM radio feature.
Now, many of the major
manufacturers—including Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc. and Motorola Solutions Inc.—allow the use of the chip. Apple is the only major holdout, according to Wharton.
Critics say Apple doesn’t want to cannibalise its streaming service by giving iPhone owners access to free radio service over the airwaves. An Apple spokeswoman said the company wouldn’t comment on the matter.
Universal display rides ‘Apple effect’ to top tech index return
Different colors flicker from screens using Universal Display Corp.’s technology. The one investors see is green.
Its shares have more than doubled this year, adding $3.4 billion in market value, as adoption of organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, technology in Apple Inc.’s iPhone X raised hopes for widespread use. OLED is an alternative to the liquid crystal displays that are critical components in everything from televisions to smart watches.
“There’s a huge opportunity ahead of them,” Scott Searle, an analyst who covers Universal Display in New York, said. “It’s still very early days.”
Snaring the world’s most valuable company as an end customer marked a major milestone for Universal Display’s 20-year quest to persuade electronics manufacturers to adopt OLED, which is thinner and energy efficient than LCD.