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  • Broadcasters in America are Pushing their Campaign to Enable FM Tuners in Smartphones


    Many consumers appear to have switched off their radios in favor of music and streamed internet commentary, a trend that has many in the broadcast industry worried. Those in the broadcast industry are alleging that this has been caused by device makers and wireless carriers who have conspired to disable built-in radio receivers in a bid to sell more expensive data packages. As of right now, most smartphones and other devices such as tablets, ship with one of a handful of universal wireless communications chips inside, usually made by companies such as Broadcom or Murata. They combine multi-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios in a single package, reducing size and increasing efficiency. In many cases, these chips also pack a third over-the-air option in the form of an FM tuner.

    Although many low-end devices tend to take advantage of this as a way to offer another feature, flagship smartphones tend to take the opposite route, rarely enabling it. Apple’s iPhone has seemingly never shipped with the ability to natively receive FM broadcasts despite having a built-in tuner and Samsung seems to have dropped the feature from its Galaxy lineup starting with the Galaxy S3. This has led many broadcasters to band together in an attempt to convince carriers and manufacturers to enable dormant chips.

    The folks that are a part of Free Radio On My Phone, a group that includes NPR and the national Association of Broadcasters, had the following to say regarding the matter:

    …all listeners would have easy access to radio for the entertainment they love and information they need, but wireless carriers are dragging their feet and won't activate the FM chips that are in every smartphone.
    Broadcasters are arguing that many consumers would have the benefit of having the ability to listen to music without using up their data allowance or being able to receive emergency broadcasts over the air. It is true that some manufacturers have disabled the FM tuners only for specific carriers though it remains unclear which party made that decision. One thing that isn’t true though is the statement that carriers can simply enable the feature with a quick software update. For example in Apple’s iPhone lineup, the tuner is often physically disconnected and no FM antenna can be found. Most phones that do include FM capabilities use the headphone cords as antennas, which would require further hardware changes.

    If somehow the broadcasters do convince manufacturers to begin making FM reception a priority, it may be too late, as FM radio has begun to lose ground to digital audio broadcasting around the world already. We’ll have to see what happens by waiting patiently. How do you feel about the situation?

    Source: Free Radio on My Phone, Radio.no
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Broadcasters in America are Pushing their Campaign to Enable FM Tuners in Smartphones started by Akshay Masand View original post
    Comments 22 Comments
    1. sheltons.iphone's Avatar
      sheltons.iphone -
      I'd love to be able to listen to my local sports teams over radio instead of having to use my data to stream the audio.
    1. Scotty Manley Silberhorn's Avatar
      Scotty Manley Silberhorn -
      Funny thing is, I've gone back to listening to the radio in my car lately over streaming. I've liked it better for some reason. I know this is just me though but I bet a few other people feel the same way.
    1. mwhite67's Avatar
      mwhite67 -
      It would be funny to release a smartphone with a big retractable antenna.
    1. X-Men's Avatar
      X-Men -
      I love FM radio than music I have. FM Radio experience is thrilling. Coz u don't know what music will be broadcasted. If u don't like a particular program u can always tune the band. On top of that it will bring good old days back. In Asian countries FM are much popular than streaming. I love FM
    1. X-Men's Avatar
      X-Men -
      Quote Originally Posted by mwhite67 View Post
      It would be funny to release a smartphone with a big retractable antenna.
      You must be a Chinese (clone) phone user... Lol
    1. Michael Pedersen's Avatar
      Michael Pedersen -
      But whyyyyyy... as a scandinavian iPhone user its USELESS.. Were about to kill all FM Radio stations here and go digital only.
    1. peacedog's Avatar
      peacedog -
      Quote Originally Posted by mwhite67 View Post
      It would be funny to release a smartphone with a big retractable antenna.
      This would be a hipster's dream.
    1. thinknoffcenter's Avatar
      thinknoffcenter -
      Could activation of this chip be done via jailbreak? If so maybe a dev will take a crack at it.

      Nvm, should have finished the article!
    1. Perceptum's Avatar
      Perceptum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Michael Pedersen View Post
      But whyyyyyy... as a scandinavian iPhone user its USELESS.. Were about to kill all FM Radio stations here and go digital only.
      Who said that phones couldn't pick up digital signals?
    1. vinaygoel2000's Avatar
      vinaygoel2000 -
      Seems like going backwards to me. We should think more about how to get more data to consumers for less rather than having fm tuners in phones.
    1. SpiderManAPV's Avatar
      SpiderManAPV -
      Quote Originally Posted by vinaygoel2000 View Post
      Seems like going backwards to me. We should think more about how to get more data to consumers for less rather than having fm tuners in phones.
      I think this push is more to enable fm tuners already installed rather than include new ones.
    1. docmagoo2's Avatar
      docmagoo2 -
      Quote Originally Posted by thinknoffcenter View Post
      Could activation of this chip be done via jailbreak? If so maybe a dev will take a crack at it.

      Nvm, should have finished the article!
      I started a similar reply but cancelled when I actually read the rest of the article!
    1. Bo Troxell's Avatar
      Bo Troxell -
      Quote Originally Posted by vinaygoel2000 View Post
      Seems like going backwards to me. We should think more about how to get more data to consumers for less rather than having fm tuners in phones.
      I agree, and for me, I made the switch to Satellite Radio (SiriusXM) 11 years ago (Cars, computer and iDevices, even Dish Network on my TV's) and never looked back. I have a ton of music on my iDevice's also because I love not having the interruptions and just want the music "I" want to hear.
      Can't even remember when I listened to FM, perhaps while in someones car.
      I can't see this being a plus for me personally.
    1. znbl's Avatar
      znbl -
      @blkcadi Just because you don't use regular FM, doesn't mean others don't. Please don't fall into the now-all-too-classic trap of assuming your experience or outlook is the only valid one or the only one that could possibly matter.

      I know of a lot of people who listen to plain old FM radio. There is also more and more stations utilizing HD radio (digital sub-channels broadcast in parallel to the conventional analogue signal for a given station, similar to OTA DTV but without killing the analogue counter part.) From what I'm sitting FM (and even AM) radio is far from dead.
    1. Bo Troxell's Avatar
      Bo Troxell -
      Quote Originally Posted by znbl View Post
      @blkcadi Just because you don't use regular FM, doesn't mean others don't. Please don't fall into the now-all-too-classic trap of assuming your experience or outlook is the only valid one or the only one that could possibly matter.

      I know of a lot of people who listen to plain old FM radio. There is also more and more stations utilizing HD radio (digital sub-channels broadcast in parallel to the conventional analogue signal for a given station, similar to OTA DTV but without killing the analogue counter part.) From what I'm sitting FM (and even AM) radio is far from dead.
      Then you didn't read my last sentence.
      I can't see this being a plus for me personally.
    1. noop's Avatar
      noop -
      my Nokia n8 had an FM tuner built in (the phone I used right before switching to the first iPhone in 2007) which was pretty cool. The only thing I didn't like, was you had to use the ear buds that came with that phone because the antenna was woven in the cable. The cables were built like a tank, but very uncomfortable in the ear at that time.

      Even though now I am subscribed to Sirius/XM, if the iPhone had the ability to transmit FM radio I'd use it to listen to local stations.
    1. znbl's Avatar
      znbl -
      Quote Originally Posted by blkcadi View Post
      Then you didn't read my last sentence.
      Yes I might have over looked that and I apologize. It might have gotten a tad overshadowed, but nonetheless it was there.
    1. qumahlin's Avatar
      qumahlin -
      I find it funny Broadcasters in America are pushing for something to be enabled that other countries are already working on phasing out. Norway will have completely phased out FM radio in 2017. It's been replaced with digital and any radio you find on store shelves currently has support for both FM/Digital, yet in the US you see almost nothing.
    1. DQEight's Avatar
      DQEight -
      Quote Originally Posted by noop View Post
      my Nokia n8 had an FM tuner built in (the phone I used right before switching to the first iPhone in 2007) which was pretty cool. The only thing I didn't like, was you had to use the ear buds that came with that phone because the antenna was woven in the cable. The cables were built like a tank, but very uncomfortable in the ear at that time.

      Even though now I am subscribed to Sirius/XM, if the iPhone had the ability to transmit FM radio I'd use it to listen to local stations.
      My old phone (Droid X2) had an FM tuner in it as well. You had to have headphones plugged in because it used them as antenna, but it wasn't any specific ones that had to be plugged in. I miss it.
    1. znbl's Avatar
      znbl -
      Quote Originally Posted by qumahlin View Post
      I find it funny Broadcasters in America are pushing for something to be enabled that other countries are already working on phasing out. Norway will have completely phased out FM radio in 2017. It's been replaced with digital and any radio you find on store shelves currently has support for both FM/Digital, yet in the US you see almost nothing.
      I assume by "digital" you're referring to HD Radio, which is digital radio that co-exists with the existing analogue signal and thus doesn't necessitate any sort of phasing out. If you have an HD receiver, you can make use of all the digital sub channels (usually the digital version of the main analogue feed plus any additional channels a given station is putting out.)