Did you know: some Sony Xperia smartphones have hidden FM transmitter functionality

Did you know: some Sony Xperia smartphones have hidden FM transmitter functionality
While this post is dedicated to a certain hidden feature in some Sony Xperia smartphone models, we'd like to start with a jump back in time – to 2007, more specifically, when the Nokia N95 was arguably the best smartphone in the universe. It had a spacious display, GPS and Wi-Fi connectivity, and a great (for the time) camera, among other noteworthy goodies. But it also offered a feature you won't find on any recent smartphone, be it an iPhone, an Android handset, a Lumia, or a BlackBerry. The feature in question is a built-in FM transmitter. It allowed one to broadcast the music playing on their N95 and play it on their car's stereo by tuning the radio to a specific frequency. No wires required!

As we already stated, today's smartphones don't have the ability to broadcast audio over the FM band. At least not out of the box. It has been discovered, however, that a hidden FM transmitter feature can be enabled in a handful of Sony Xperia phones as their hardware allows it, at least technically. The Sony Xperia Z, Xperia Z Ultra, Xperia Z1, Xperia Z1 compact, Xperia T, and Xperia SP are all on the list.

But there's a catch. Okay, there's a few of them, as we're about to explain. First and foremost, you'll need a rooted Xperia smartphone for this hack to work. Then you'll also need an app called SpiritTransmit, and its developer, Mike Reid, is asking a whopping $19 for it (free trial is available, see source link for details). Thirdly, you'll need to have a pair of earphones connected to your Xperia smartphone as their wire is used as the transmitting antenna. Even if you have all these requirements checked, audio quality may vary depending on how close the radio antenna is to the earphones you have plugged in. 

Still, if you're feeling adventurous and have one of the aforementioned phones in your possession, feel free to give this hack a try. Don't forget to let us know in the comments if you get it to work!


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38 Comments

1. buccob

Posts: 2968; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Bluetooth FTW

8. epdm2be

Posts: 822; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

You don;t seem to get it, do you? Car technology lags at least 5 years behind computer technology. There are a lot of cars that DON'T have A2D BT! It's a miracle to even find a car that play ISO-CD's containing MP3's. In these cases an FM-transmitter is a godsend! Something all the young whatsap-app-zombies don't understand (probably because they don't drive a car yet). BTW, The 2012 also has an FM-transmitter and is because of that STILL my daily driver. The other reason is full 2-way Call-recording.

16. buccob

Posts: 2968; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Hey I don't know who are you telling young Whatsapp zombie... But I have 29 y/o and drive since I was 15. And none of my cars have had Bluetooth from factory but I am a tech lover and I occasionally buy a Car Stereo that does indeed offer Bluetooth. I enjoyed FM transmitters back in the day and I had a couple of them as accessories for my Archos PVR. But now Bluetooth has so much ubiquity that it has been years since the last time I saw an FM Transmitter in use... And I live in a third world country. Anyway this article is actually great news for the owners of those handsets, but for 20 bucks and the hassle of rooting... I think it is not such a big deal.

26. Tsepz_GP

Posts: 1175; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

My 2011 VW Polo Vivo has A2D BT, most cars from around 2010 and up have it. In any case, if you live in a city or area with a high population density you may find FM Transmission is useless as most of the frequencies are taken up. I had a Hyundai FM Transmitter in my old Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ, and it proved to be incredibly annoying to use as about 98% of frequencies were used. You find that you find an open frequency when you are in one part of town, then you go to another part and that that frequency is in use.

33. CamaroSS

Posts: 173; Member since: Jul 24, 2012

This feature was certainly worth a shot if the app was free or if the car doesn't even have aux input. I have seen aux inputs on some really old cars. For those cars, ~$15 bluetooth receiver with 3.5mm output is a much better alternative than a $19 app. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K5HDEMO?psc=1

36. mikereidis

Posts: 3; Member since: May 25, 2015

I'm the developer of this Spirit Transmit app and the other Spirit FM apps. I just found this article by accident while reading up on Android news. There's a free Open Source version of my Spirit2 FM receive app that can be configured to transmit also, but without sending RDS song data. I knew I would never sell many copies of this transmit app. I did it for fun and to test my receive apps RDS. It was $10 like my Spirit2 app, but I doubled it to see what would happen, and because I didn't really want to support it. Selling a $10 app, getting $7 from Google and then spending an hour supporting someone means I end up with less than half the legal minimum wage here after deducting a reasonable 20% or so for my business expenses; flagship phones are expensive BTW and I've got over a dozen that are reasonably recent. If there was interest, I'd drop the price back down to $10 or so. BTW after 4 years, the FM app business is dying for me. Making minimum wage in a field where good devs (and yes I was paid VERY well in the 90's and 00's) can make 5-10x that amount is not very inspiring. Anyway, I've moved on to building an Android Auto Headunit app for tablets. First of it's kind. :)

38. CamaroSS

Posts: 173; Member since: Jul 24, 2012

Thanks for your post. I was just comparing the app to other options. - no offence! But it's a great app anyway. And good luck with the headunit app. It sounds very promising.

39. Remmy

Posts: 189; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

Looking forward to that! No need to buy an expensive head unit just to have Android Auto! :)

2. Dreamboat

Posts: 50; Member since: Apr 29, 2015

I remember having this on my old Sony w980i. Was an awesome feature since bluetooth still wasn't common on my stereos we had!

17. hkxm8

Posts: 64; Member since: Apr 08, 2012

yup, good old w980i.

3. ddxmms

Posts: 170; Member since: Feb 09, 2012

no thanks !!

4. BobLawblaw unregistered

Just get TuneIn Radio. Job done..

28. SitiNurbaya0

Posts: 153; Member since: May 22, 2015

internet radio need internet. no free FM radio is free

5. Sauce5 unregistered

The iPhone does too. Actually, quite a few modern smartphones do.

7. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

The iPhone has FM radio? Since when?

10. epdm2be

Posts: 822; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

Are you dyslexic? The article is about FM-TRANSMITTER not FM-RECEIVER (aka FM-Radio)

12. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Even so, iPhones doesn't have FM radio as well as transmitter.

19. Sauce5 unregistered

Wrong.

20. buccob

Posts: 2968; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

The iPhone has never had true FM receiver, much less a Transmitter. What it does have is a Radio service that works over the Internet, not using FM radio signal.

21. Sauce5 unregistered

On the 5s, it is called the BCM4330 chip. On the iPhone 6, it is called Murata 339S0228 which houses the normal flavors of 802.11 wifi, Bluetooth, and FM transceiver (a device which is capable of RECEIVING and TRANSMITTING FM modulation signal). I'm not going to sit here and babble with uneducated any longer lol. Just stating it's there in the iPhone, and many others. Do some research

24. Sauce5 unregistered

But what does it actually mean that it has an FM transceiver? It means that if you feed it the right type of signal that came from an FM antenna, it can turn that into an audio signal. What the iPhone and many others are missing is an appropriate antenna and an amplifier chip dedicated to driving that antenna. Also, software could just use the headphone jack as the antenna, assuming normal unshielded headphones were plugged in. This is the route Apple took to enable FM radio in the 5th gen iPod Nano, and someone rigged up a similar solution on a rooted Android phone. If you really wanted FM, you could get it. Like I said, just stating FM is there.

27. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

It sucks someone pays for a FM transceiver but only iPod users can use it. Useless chip...

30. buccob

Posts: 2968; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Wow I didn't know that... So many smartphones are paying for hardware that is never used... But I guess that had to do with building chips that integrate many features even if they are not going to take advantage of them. I wonder why apple never gave the FM receiver feature since it was one of the most demanded reques, and they had it built into a chip.

31. Sauce5 unregistered

Unlike the murata chip that doesn't take up any extra space, those things /would/ take up extra space in the phone. While I'm of the opinion that Apple could have fitted them in if they wanted to, it would definitely class heads with the design style Apple is currently using. On my old Android phone, the cyanogenmod rom enabled an FM radio by using the Bluetooth chip. One downside was that you couldn't listen to the radio on a Bluetooth headset. Still pretty neat though. i don't find it that big a stretch that you could theoretically use the iPhone's Bluetooth chip in the same way. It would be really hard though. One advantage that the cyanogenmod folks have is access to the hardware layer of the phone.

34. andynaija

Posts: 1259; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

Because Apple knows that FM radio is free for everybody, but being the money hungry corporation that they are, they would rather have buyers stream radio from the internet. (that is if iPhones have FM receivers, which I'm not sure of)

35. mikereidis

Posts: 3; Member since: May 25, 2015

You are correct. Google, Apple, North American carriers (except Sprint, being paid $multi-millions every year) and many streaming and other tech companies all seem to agree that traditional FM broadcasting should be killed off as quickly as possible. And the radio industry doesn't have the cash flow to compete with campaign donations and thus politicians ears. (BTW, I'm the developer of this Spirit Transmit app and the other Spirit FM apps. And I can say unequivocally that after 4 years, the FM app business is dying for me. and I've moved on to building an Android Auto Headunit app for tablets.)

22. Sauce5 unregistered

read comment 21.

9. SIGPRO

Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

IPhone does not have it!

11. epdm2be

Posts: 822; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

In your dreams it does! Stupid f**k!

23. Sauce5 unregistered

read above.

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