Currently, the FCC requires any device that wants its certification to have a nameplate or etched label that displays an ID and approval from the agency. Today, the FCC has loosened its rules (via MultiChannel) regarding labeling, allowing manufacturers to bypass etching FCC labels on its devices, like Apple's iPhone.
Verizon iPhone 4 without FCC label on left, iPhone 4 with FCC label on right.
Many consumer devices have very small surface areas for a label, or when etched on the surface, the labeling may cause damage or require very expensive techniques. In such instances, the rules permit the Commission to approve alternative means of displaying the required information.
The change comes shortly after Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced the E-Label Act, which allows companies to meet the FCC's label demands using digital stamps on the device rather than etching labels onto the hardware. The two Senators argue the change would allow manufacturers to save money, allowing them to pass the savings on to consumers.
“As manufacturers continue to produce groundbreaking technologies, it only makes sense that federal labeling requirements for these products are updated to further promote innovation and create new opportunities in the digital age,” Fischer said in a statement. “This bipartisan measure will provide relief for job creators, benefit consumers, and promote modern regulations that better suit a 21st century marketplace.”
The FCC's solution is fairly similar to the one the Senators proposed, and would require companies like Apple to place the digital labels three menus deep within a phone's device menu. The device's user manual must include where to find the FCC labels, or the information must be on the manufacturer's website.
It's highly likely Apple takes advantage of either the FCC's new rules or the E-Label Act, as the labels sit counter to Apple's focus on clean, minimal design on its devices. However, it's unclear when or how Apple would take advantage of the new rules.