Did you know that your smartphone most likely has an FM radio chip that isn't enabled?

Did you know that your smartphone most likely has an FM radio chip that isn't enabled?
A modern smartphone is such a complex device, it hardly comes off as a surprise that some of the components inside it end up unused. For example, a very common chip that lies dormant on two-thirds of smartphone motherboards is an FM radio. According to Jeff Smulyan (CEO, Emmis Comms) Samsung, Apple, and LG have the practice of explicitly disabling their FM radio chips, while HTC and Motorola devices don't have blocked chips. Moreover, Sprint devices have their FM radios switched on, while T-Mobile and AT&T have expressed their support by encouraging OEM partners to include working FM radio chips in its phones.

Lobbying efforts by the National Association of Broadcasters, along with the National Public Radio, have tried to make FM radio on smartphones mandatory. They even made a free app (link) that breaks open FM chips in no less than 58 well (and not so) known smartphones, using the headphones cable to catch radio signal. But mobile industry representatives claim that consumers at large have shifted to podcasts for news and streaming apps for music, which means the demand for traditional radio may no longer be there. According to Jot Carpenter, VP of government affairs for The Wireless Association, FM radio doesn't permit Americans to stream, download, and customize music playlists (or other types of audio content) to meet their personal preferences.

However, an FM radio chip is still more technologically feasible than streaming audio. According to Smulyan, streaming drains the smartphone battery three to five times faster than listening to the same content on the FM chip. Moreover, users can rack up expensive data charges. In addition, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate argues that access to an FM network could be critical in the event of a crisis. Data networks are vulnerable to overload, as illustrated by Superstorm Sandy and the North American derecho storm (both from 2012). During the crisis, carrier overload blocked many users from receiving crucial information via cellular network. Access to FM radio could potentially alleviate that.

Do you miss having FM radio on your smartphone, or is streaming good enough for you? Share your sentiments in the comments section below!

source: NPR - All Tech Considered

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48 Comments

1. Canaan

Posts: 351; Member since: May 25, 2014

Sony phones have an enabled chip, thought it only works with the earphones on.

7. SuperAndroid507

Posts: 361; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

It uses the cable as an antenna, but you still can switch to the loudspeaker i guess.

31. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

As far as I know, they all require you put the headphones in, because the headphones are used for the antenna.

34. MacWiNux

Posts: 128; Member since: Jan 07, 2014

true headset is used as antenna (remember the good ol days of nokia and SE) needs headset to turn on radio but still you can play it on loud speaker or sometime an external speaker as antenna

36. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

er... technically, its the headset/earphone's cable that used as antenna

2. TyrionLannister unregistered

I would love FM radio if it had better quality.

3. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Having FM radio could be handy, especially here in Canada where the fukn carriers don't give unlimited data. TuneIn Radio is the best alternative, but that still uses data. Besides FM radio, wonder if the FM antenna could be used to convert SmartPhones into literally Walkie Talkies when tuned to the same frequency...

4. sergiobr

Posts: 718; Member since: Feb 25, 2013

Must have for me !

5. dimas

Posts: 3380; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

My wife still use the fm radio app in her phone. She's too lazy creating playlists and setting up spotify and she's not always on wifi so fm radio works for her.

8. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

I'm glad Sony is not as greedy as Samsung and Apple and offers a working FM radio. No FM = no buy. The only reason Samsung didn't enable the FM chip is to force users to stream more music.

13. maherk

Posts: 6933; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Yeah because Samsung and Apple own at&t, Verizon, Sprint and every other carrier right? Once again, you had to make it about Sony lol And oh, those greedy bastards at Samsung are ripping off their costumers, by giving them the more expensive amoled panels, latest and greatest technology, for the same price or even cheaper than Sony's flagships. Sony are way too generous with their costumers, that they don't even include a fast charger with their most expensive flagships.

16. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

What do American carriers have to do with the international models of the Galaxy and iPhone? And you can talk about Samsung's greatest technology as long as you want, but the thing is they still put some extra effort in disasbling a working chip. If they want to remove something it can better be some bloatware like Facebook.

18. maherk

Posts: 6933; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Oh please, cut the cr@p and stop this facebook bloatware nonsense. You're obviously a Sony fanboy, and because you are, you have no right to nag about bloatware, since Sony have their own share of useless Sony apps that you cannot uninstall. Atleast, and as far as I know, that VAST majority of smartphone owners do use facebook. Unless you're not a nexus owner, then you have no right to complain about bloatware, since every other OEM are guilty of installing bloatware on their phones. HTC seems to be going with a clean OS, they removed almost all their apps in their latest 6.0 updatem

21. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Sonys apps WORK unlike the Samsung ones, so one doesn't mind the Sony apps being there.

24. maherk

Posts: 6933; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Mind to illustrate?

22. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

Do you also have something useful to say, instead of 'you're a Sony fanboy so you have no right to speak about bloatware'?

23. maherk

Posts: 6933; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I see that you have reading problems, so here you go, I ll simplify it for you. SINCE, you are a Sony fan, you have no right to criticize Samsung or any other OEM for bloatware, because Sony phones are full with all sorts of useless and useful apps, aka bloatware. The 8GB M4 Aqua came with only 1.2gb of storage space, the Z3+ had around 50 pre installed apps. And I am not complaining about, I am just reminding you why you need to give us another reason why you hate Samsung, because this one isn't working.

25. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

I know that Sony phones have pre-installed apps. Luckily, you can delete almost everyone. But what does that have to do with Samsung disabling FM chips?

28. maherk

Posts: 6933; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

It was you who brought up the bloatware and facebook app argument lol Focus son, focus.

26. MuddyCow

Posts: 90; Member since: Oct 09, 2014

My grain of salt, Sony smartphones are bloated too, the bloat is region/carrier dependant but it's usually a bunch of Google and Sony apps that we don't care about, some carriers load Facebook too, I appreciate that Sony isn't greedy and gives us FM Radio and unlocked bootloaders but their apps are far from perfect (The Music app drives me insane).

29. Tsepz_GP

Posts: 1176; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

The Sony fanboy forgets that Sony removed the finger print scanner when taking the Z5s to the USA, plus the fact that Sony tend to have poor post processing in their cameras, and the Z3+ and Z5 series have poor battery.

41. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

The Sony fan boy shoots manual, and takes full advantage of its 20-23mp 1/2.3 sensor

45. Tsepz_GP

Posts: 1176; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

And the results are still mediocre. Its a damn shame.

47. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

The person using the camera need to know HOW to shoot manual, you can't switch to manual mode and expect miracles, you have to drop the ISO and balance that with the shutter speed, but it varies with every scene. Tech bloggers generally aren't the brightest bunch.

48. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

The person using the camera need to know HOW to shoot manual, you can't switch to manual mode and expect miracles, you have to drop the ISO and balance that with the shutter speed, but it varies with every scene. Tech bloggers generally aren't the brightest bunch.

42. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

I had a Note 3 and a Note 4, an HTC M8, an LG G3 and an iPhone 6s Plus, they all have their apps, Samsung was the worst, replacing Google apps with its own half baked versions, I had to disable them all, put the stock ones back in and slap Google now launcher to make it usable. The M8 was gold smooth I liked the apps, great all around phone, the LG G3 was a buggy mess. I have a Sony Z3V HEAVY skin but it works sooo well, it adds and doesn't interfere. And the iPhone is an iPhone...

43. JoshN

Posts: 202; Member since: Apr 01, 2015

DUDE you are the dumbest person ive ever heard "No FM = no buy" so lets say that the only phone with an FM Radio was a Nokia Lumia 520 would you buy it or buy the latest Sony slab you troll !!!

9. sebstin

Posts: 189; Member since: Dec 03, 2015

I love FM radio always... Its so dynamic, entertaining with talks, quiz shows etc.. No need to worry about DATA or battery draining issues..

10. WoofedUp

Posts: 8; Member since: Nov 23, 2015

ASUS is also on the good side and hasn't left FM Chip unused, so it is there within an app to control it. :) P. S. Love my Zenfone 2 :D

11. samgsam15

Posts: 50; Member since: May 09, 2014

I have a OnePlus One and i really miss FM radio :(

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