Apple responded to a call by US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai for it to activate FM radio receivers in iPhones to aid public safety, by stating not all of its models carry the necessary chips.

In disaster situations, FM radio chips embedded in mobile phones can be used to allow the devices to receive emergency radio broadcasts even when wireless networks have failed. Pai noted while many smartphone vendors have already activated the feature, Apple so far refused to do so.

“I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. That’s why I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones. It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first,” Pai said in a statement.

Apple responded with a statement explaining its iPhone 7 and recently launched iPhone 8 models don’t contain FM chips or antennas, Reuters reported.

The vendor’s statement made no reference to previous versions of the smartphone, but noted it “engineered modern safety solutions” into its products, including the ability to make emergency calls or access medical ID information “directly from the Lock Screen”.

Hurricane hurdles
Pai’s comments come as US territory Puerto Rico seeks to restore communications after being devastated by Hurricane Maria earlier this month. An FCC status report immediately after the storm hit last week revealed 95 per cent of cell sites on the island had been knocked offline. As of Wednesday morning (27 September), 91 per cent of cell sites remained out of commission.

Recovery efforts from US operators are underway, though they face steep challenges thanks to an island-wide electricity blackout and extensive flooding.

Earlier this week, Sprint noted its first shipment of generators and repair equipment had reached the island alongside a crew of engineers and technicians from the mainland US. A second shipment of supplies and personnel was scheduled to arrive Wednesday.

On Wednesday evening, AT&T said it landed “a number” of planes loaded with repair teams, generators and equipment on the island, with more resources on the way. The operator said it is also sending satellite phones to first responders on the island to help them stay connected.

T-Mobile US CTO Neville Ray is also narrating the operator’s recovery efforts on Twitter. On Monday, Ray stated T-Mobile had successfully delivered equipment, fuel and personnel to the island. Ray on Wednesday shared a photo of a large ship headed to the island with additional resources. Even with those supplies, though, Ray said there is a long, hard road ahead.