Your smartphone is equipped with an FM radio tuner that you can't use

By Shawn Knight
Apr 17, 2015
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  1. hidden radio pocket music smartphone natw streaming music fm fm chip smartphone radio frequency modulation news source fm broadcasting

    FM broadcasting (frequency modulation) has been used for decades as a means of entertainment as well as a news-gathering tool. Its use is on the decline, however, as modern technology made it easier to listen to music on our own terms and gather news from the Internet.

    It’s a bit ironic really considering there are probably more FM radios around now than ever before. Heck, there’s probably one sitting on your desk, in your pocket or even in your hands right now as you read this.

    Some may be surprised to learn that most modern smartphones are equipped with FM tuner chips. They cost next to nothing to add in during manufacturing yet go unused by millions each day. The reason why? Almost every wireless carrier has disabled the function. The reason why? Money, of course.

    Using the FM radio in your smartphone is absolutely free and doesn’t count against your data plan – reason enough for greedy wireless carriers to block it. What’s more, if you’re listening to free over-the-air radio, that means you aren’t listening to service from a streaming music provider and could be less inclined to pay for its service.

    music radio smartphone natw streaming music fm fm chip smartphone radio frequency modulation news source fm broadcasting

    Another benefit is in the battery department. According to Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan, listening to streaming can drain your battery three to five times faster versus listening via the FM chip. And during a major crisis like Superstorm Sandy, wireless carriers networks often become overloaded which prevents many from getting information via cellular devices. Having FM, even as a backup solution, would be immensely useful in times like this.

    Industry executives, however, aren’t interested in any of this. During the ongoing National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas, CTIA vice president of government affairs Jot Carpenter said what Americans really want is the ability to stream, download and customize music playlists to meet their personal preferences and that’s not what the traditional FM radio offers.

    Carpenter concluded that the demand would have to be there to get companies to activate the chips.

    What do you think? Would you like to have the FM chip in your smartphone activated or do you not really care much? Let us know in the comments section below.

    Images via WallartHD, FrAndroid

    Permalink to story.

  2. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,377   +2,166

    "What do you think? Would you like to have the FM chip in your smartphone activated or do you not really care much? Let us know in the comments section below."

    I couldn't care less if there is a deactivated FM chip in my phone. The statistical likelihood of me using my smartphone for FM radio is less than winning the lottery - twice.
  3. rvnwlfdroid

    rvnwlfdroid TS Booster Posts: 120   +22

    My old HTC Thunderbolt had that as an option (unlocked). The problem is they used the 3.5mm jack as the antenna if you will. You had to have something plugged into it to even receive a signal. Where I use a bluetooth speaker that did not work out so well. Although I must say the reception inside my work was way better then the little bookshelf stereo they had in there.
  4. CrisisDog

    CrisisDog TS Booster Posts: 119   +17

    My BLU Windows Phone 8.1 has this feature, but also requires wired headphones for the antenna. I haven't connected a set of headphones yet to it.
  5. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 1,600   +411

    This isn't news. If you want a radio, buy a radio. I understand the phone I have in my pocket exists because someone made it, and if they don't want it to have a radio who I'm I to complain? You can't always get what you want, when you want, and how you want it. Suck it up bucko.
  6. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 1,937   +157

    Id use it if I could.

    Not often but there is something nice about just turning on your tv or radio and letting it play. I like local radio.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2015
    Perhaps likes this.
  7. yRaz

    yRaz TS Evangelist Posts: 1,830   +881

    I bought an unlocked Lumia 1520 that had this feature, but I broke it. I got it replaced through ATTs insurance and they replaced it with a slightly different model. It has the fm tuner disabled and is not compatible with other 4g networks like my old one.
  8. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 862   +353

    Another reason not to purchase a carrier branded phone. I've had better experience with the last 3 phones I've owned in the past 5 years. No bloat, no features locked out.
    mrtraver likes this.
  9. Satish Mallya

    Satish Mallya TS Addict Posts: 124   +92

    Well, if I paid for - and received - the hardware, I'd damn well like the ability to use it.
    Whether I'd actually use it or not is not the question.
    I want the ability to use what's already mine.
    Hexic, spectrenad, Seth Fine and 2 others like this.
  10. LoggedInReady

    LoggedInReady TS Rookie

    I loved the FM receiver on my HTC Inspire 4G. But I'm a rarity. Nobody else cares.
    ikesmasher likes this.
  11. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 2,529   +833

    My college has a radio station that I would pretty much listen to perpetually given the ability to..
    spectrenad and plonk420 like this.
  12. Lionvibez

    Lionvibez TS Evangelist Posts: 1,080   +331

    I still use the FM tuner on my Blackberry Z30 still nice to have the option.
    DaveBG likes this.
  13. plonk420

    plonk420 TS Rookie

    Well, NOW I want to try it. I love our local NPR affiliate.

    seems VZW is checking with an internal department to see if it's something they can or want to unlock...
  14. plonk420

    plonk420 TS Rookie

    what amused me the most is that the Z10 (and presumably Z30) could play MKVs out of the box. and had Subsonic (which looked eerily like the Android version) at launch.
  15. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    If I could pickup something worth listening to, I might would want one. Then again I don't need another reason to drain that little damn battery they keep putting in a phone.
  16. Vaibhav Sharma

    Vaibhav Sharma TS Rookie Posts: 19

    In India FM is much more popular than internet radio, but my s5 doesn't have fm radio. My previous smartphones had it. I still used it rarely over listening to the music stored on my phone. It is definitely a feature I would want, but could live without it if I have to.
  17. I can't really believe that there are people who support the locking of hardware that they already bought from companies that only care how to charge them more. I wonder if these people work at those companies.

    FM radio is a pretty nice option to have, because FM radio is an excellent companion for long trips. Also it is a good excuse to turn off the monitor and stop looking at artificial light all day and all night, which is what we do when surfing on the internet.
  18. bexwhitt

    bexwhitt TS Addict Posts: 289   +55

    It's not something I would use, the quality is pretty bad as it uses your headphones as the antenna.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2015
  19. OortCloud

    OortCloud TS Booster Posts: 113   +27

    I go motor racing to the World Endurance Championship events which you really need to listen to on Radio as it gets very complicated to work out what lap and where everybody is. They broadcast from the circuits on a local FM - it would be great to be able to use my phone and not haul a radio around with me as well.
    Whltng likes this.
  20. NeurotechHD

    NeurotechHD TS Rookie Posts: 61   +19

    I used this feature all the time on my old iPod Nano. It's nice for talk radio, and it's nice knowing you can get alerts even if our extremely sensitive cell network goes down in the event of an emergency.

    Because of its benefits in an a national emergency, I suspect that the FCC will one day make radios mandatory in all phones.
  21. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 1,815   +485

    it's something that I've used often when I grew tired of the music I had in my playlist. why would you be content with not having the option to use it? this kind of attitude should not exist and I find it very annoying. it's like saying that you like being average.
    "Suck it up bucko" is not an option for normal people.
    spectrenad and Whltng like this.
  22. fimbles

    fimbles TS Evangelist Posts: 1,159   +198

    I use the Fm radio quite often, Can honestly say I have never owned a phone without this feature. Maybe its a europe thing? Moto g.
    DaveBG likes this.
  23. Railman

    Railman TS Booster Posts: 708   +101

    Why would using headphones as the antenna reduce the quality? I use FM radio on my smart phone and the quality seems pretty good to me. Maybe your smartphone is not up to scratch.
  24. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Guru Posts: 736   +259

    Bold assumption. From what I understand Blackberry's (at least the new ones) can use the FM tuner (with headphones).
  25. mizkitty

    mizkitty TS Enthusiast Posts: 34

    Just read that Norway is shutting down FM radio by Jan 2017.
    DAB coverage exceeds FM coverage now.

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