The FM Radio Hidden in Your SMARTPHONE

iphone5cRichard Gray of the Daily Mail  wrote an interesting article today which further proves certain smartphone manufactures don’t want to turn on the FM chip in their phones to allow consumers to enjoy FM radio on their smartphones.

It is a source of music, information and entertainment for millions of listeners around the world, yet vast numbers of people are being denied the chance to enjoy FM radio.

Many of the smartphones on sale today – including Apple’s iPhones, Samsung’s Galaxy phones and LG phones – come with built-in FM chips.

However, nearly two thirds of smartphones do not have the feature activated. Now the radio industry, faced with the rise of digital radio, are calling for this to change. Broadcasters, including the BBC, are pushing for the mobile industry to activate the FM chips within smartphones to allow users to access their free radio feature. 

It is thought many mobile phone network providers are reluctant to allow this because it would reduce demand for data used by streaming internet broadcasts.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in the US, which has been one of the loudest campaigners on the issue, also warns that FM radio on mobile phones could prove vital in an emergency.

It said that FM radio is the most reliable way of broadcasting emergency information during times of national crisis and that allowing access to it on smartphones would mean such messages could reach almost everyone, no matter where they are.

The NAB claims that the top 10 phones on the market already include radio chips that are not activated and would have little impact on battery life.

Jeff Smulyan, spokesman for the NAB on the campaign, told NPR that giving users FM radio would allow them to avoid expensive data charges and save battery life.

He said: ‘Listening to streaming drains your battery three to five times faster than listening to the exact same content on the FM chip.

‘When the power grid is out, the only lifeline for the American public is having an FM tuner.’

In the UK, many cheaper mobile phones come with FM radio activated.

Smartphones produced by HTC and Motorola also come with the ability to listen to FM radio.

Around 21 percent of adults in the UK say they have listened to radio using a mobile phone or tablet at least once a month during 2014, but many of these may have been using apps rather than FM chips.

In the US the figures are lower as the availability of phones with FM radio activated is lower.

Devices such as Apple’s iPhone also contain the technology to allow FM radio listening – they are included on the chip that also receives WiFi and Bluetooth radio signals.

In the iPhone 6, for example, the Murata 339S0228 chip has its FM functionality switched off.

Other smartphones running Android, including some made by Samsung and LG, also suffer from the same problem.

However, turning these on is not a simple task. Many of these phones also lack the FM antenna needed to receive a signal.

Some phones use the headphone cords as an antenna, but this would need to be connected to the smartphone devices.

There is also commercial resistance to activating these FM chips.

Mobile service providers are increasingly attempting to attract customers by offering music streaming services, according to a report by US Congressional Research Service.

Apple is also preparing to launch its own music streaming service.

FM is seen by some as an archaic technology that will be replaced with digital radio. Norway has become the first country to announce it will switch off its FM radio service in 2017 and other countries are expected to follow.

However, the BBC has been leading a new project to combine internet radio with FM or DAB to produce a hybrid radio service.

Called the Universal Smartphone Radio Project, is has been discussing how to develop the technology with smartphone manufacturers.

Helen Boaden, director of BBC Radio, said: ‘There is an enduring love for radio and easy listening on the move is critical for this.

‘This UK-led global partnership is a response to listeners’ demand for simple, charge-free radio in mobile phones.’

In the US, 32 mobile devices now carry a NextRadio hybrid radio chip pre-installed.

According to Craig Fugate, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Administration, radio is critical in a crisis.

Speaking in a video on the FreeRadioOnMyPhone.org campaign site, he said: ‘As more and more people use their smartphones as streaming devices to get news, get radio, get a lot of things like that over their networks, I don’t think people realize how vulnerable they get.’

James Cridland, a radio futurologist, added: ‘There’s clear evidence that people love FM radio in their phone.

‘I find it odd that US mobile networks seek to ignore what their consumers want, in favour of forcing them to pay more on data.’

The CTIA-The Wireless Association, however, insists that mobile phone users prefer to stream, download and customize music playlists in a way that FM radio does not allow.

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