There is a little-known feature that most smartphones are hidden in. This is a common technology that you use in your car or at home. However, most people don’t know they have it on their phone.
If you haven’t guessed your smartphone probably has an FM radio receiver built into it. You just need to activate it, and then you will have an FM tuner on your phone.
In this article, we explain how to listen to the radio on your phone by unlocking the hidden FM tuner.
FM Tuner Locked In Your Smartphone
It might seem odd that a smartphone manufacturer would include an FM receiver and not notify their users about it. But there is a reason.
The ability to access the radio comes from the Qualcomm LTE modem in the smartphone. They most likely include this capability because using smartphones to access the radio is common in developing countries. And it’s easier to disable the radio chip than to use completely different modems for cell phones sold in different regions.
While manufacturers may decide to universally activate the chip, their owners unlock the FM radio on their smartphones. In terms of operators, the big ones already allow for the opportunity. We’re not exactly sure why some companies won’t activate the chip, but there are a few theories that have emerged:
Some companies say they don’t see FM radio as a big selling point or something consumers really want. Critics argue that the real reason is the financial incentive not to activate it. Because it will prevent people from using the streaming service, which makes money for everyone involved.
How to Unlock FM Tuner
If you have a supported device and carrier, accessing your device’s FM radio is not difficult. You only need two things: an app called NextRadio and wired headphones or speakers to act as an antenna. NextRadio has published list of devices and carriers that support NextRadio.
Once you’ve determined if your phone supports NextRadio, you’ll need to use Google Play. Unfortunately, Apple removed NextRadio from the app store in December 2018.
So if you don’t want to check NextRadio’s list, download the app to see if your phone is compatible. If it can’t find a supported chip, the download is worth it.
If the app detects an enabled FM chip, the next thing you need is an antenna. This is easier than it sounds. Practically anything that plugs into your device and has a cable will work. That means you can use headphones or wired speakers.
If you don’t use speakers, you don’t need to listen through the connected headphones. You can choose to direct the sound to your phone’s speakers as well. Unfortunately, there is no Bluetooth support at this time.
NextRadio’s Current State
NextRadio has returned to basics, with streaming and iOS support no longer supported. This means that the program focuses entirely on being an FM tuner. When you first start using the app, pay attention to these warnings:
These are all left over from when apps supported streaming and limited data usage. The search function doesn’t work very well either, so just devote all your attention to a basic FM tuner. You can still list favorite stations, so you can create FM radio playlists from time to time.
Benefits of Using FM Radio
While you can download several apps to stream radio stations, using an FM tuner has its separate benefits.
Perhaps the biggest advantage is the fact that connecting to the radio doesn’t require you to use data. It’s free to use just like in your car or on any other device. If you don’t have reliable access to Wi-Fi or have limited data, use the radio on your phone.
While you can access many stations by streaming, streaming services will not always have access to all of your local stations. If you access it via FM radio, you will find every available station in your area.
The FCC recommends having a radio on for emergency situations such as tornadoes or severe storms. This ensures you can stay informed or in touch if the phone line and internet are both down. Since home radios are no longer common, turning a smartphone into a radio makes a lot of sense.
Tips for How to Use Your FM Chip
Use these two tips for your radio-enabled device:
- Let Your Phone Charge Before Potential Emergencies: If you suspect an emergency situation is imminent, be sure to fully charge your phone. This way you can use it as an emergency radio even if the power goes out. Heed severe weather warnings, and keep a phone charger in case you’re out and about.
- Use Radio to Save Your Battery: Whether you’re in an emergency situation or just using your phone casually, battery life matters a lot. If you want your battery to last longer, use the radio to listen to music instead of streaming it. Tapping on an FM signal requires less energy than using an internet connection.
While you may not even realize you have a radio, you probably have one in your pocket most of the time. You can’t use it unless you download the right app. Or, in some cases, unless your phone manufacturer or wireless carrier has an FM chip enabled in your device.
Several companies have now started activating radio receivers in their devices. However, it may still be some time before radio-enabled receivers become the standard for smartphones worldwide. Until then, those who don’t support the device may want to get a small radio for emergencies.
For those with supported devices, this is your lucky day. You’ve just discovered an additional feature that makes your phone a little more fun and useful.
Unlock FM Radio on Your Smartphone
Now that you know how to turn on and listen to the radio on your phone, consider these enduring benefits. During an emergency, you have an extra way to stay informed. And for general use, there are always ways to save battery life and data while using your phone.