Samsung’s future smartphones will have unlocked, activated FM radio chips, according to the company behind terrestrial radio mobile app NextRadio. According to TagStation, Samsung has confirmed that its future smartphones in the United States and Canada will have active FM chips, enabling handset owners to listen to their local radio stations. This follows the FCC’s recent call for phone makers to support FM radio.
FM radio has increasingly fallen out of favor among casual smartphone owners who would rather use one of the big streaming services. These streaming services offer many, many features that FM radio can’t — on-demand access, a lack of advertisements, control over what plays, and more — but there’s one important thing they can’t provide: access to information when the Internet is down.
FM radio is freely accessible to anyone who has the proper equipment to pick it up; it doesn’t depend on the Internet and can reach rural areas where broadband may not even be available. For that reason, terrestrial radio remains a key component in the nation’s emergency alert system; it is a solid way to transmit important information, such as storm warnings and situation updates, to individuals who don’t have Internet access for one reason or another.
Despite this, many smartphones no longer offer access to FM radio — some because they entirely lack the hardware to do so, but others because the FM radio chip is disabled. In the latter case, the FCC said in February 2017 that it wants smartphone makers to activate the FM hardware in their handsets so that consumers have immediate, easily carried access to local radio stations.
More recently, FCC chairman Ajit Pai made a slight embarrassment of himself by calling on Apple to unlock the FM chips in iPhone handsets. The problem with that dramatic request was simple: starting with the iPhone 7 onward, Apple’s smartphone doesn’t have any FM hardware in it.
Samsung, however, plans to include FM chips in its future smartphones, according to TagStation, which owns the NextRadio app. Mobile users can access local radio stations with NextRadio, which is free to download from the big app stores. Motorola, LG, and Alcatel are among the smartphone companies that will offer FM radio access on their phones.