Glossary

Radio

What is a built-in FM radio?

FM receivers, which allow us to listen to FM radio, were among the first special features during the transition between the first cellphones and smartphones. As years went by, however, many users were left disappointed and nostalgic, as FM radio vanished from newer models.

Besides a built-in antenna or plugged-in headphone jack, an FM chip is required for FM radio to work on a smartphone. The odd thing is that many of our phones do have this feature, though it remains disabled within the device, with no software to manage it. Fortunately, there are apps out there that can both detect if your gadget has an FM chip, as well as activate and operate it.

FM radio stations may not be able to provide listeners with the glory of picking what they want to hear, but such lack of control is precisely what a nostalgic portion of consumers miss. Most importantly, FM radio broadcasts are immeasurably more reliable and far-reaching than mobile internet in crises, and emergency broadcasts are proven to save lives. So why would consumer electronics manufacturers disregard public safety, delivering dormant FM radio capabilities or, as is the case for Apple, discarding FM chips altogether? The reason may be the profits from data consumption and ever-so-popular streaming services (Apple Music being one of them).

Thanks to a request by the US-American Federal Communications Commission (FCC), some brands have decided to be more transparent regarding their products' FM radio capabilities. Samsung, for instance, has partnered up with app NextRadio, pledging to ship its next phones with a working FM radio feature. With this news, Samsung joins other companies such as LG, Motorola, and Alcatel. The 3.5mm headphone jack remains crucial for FM radio use on smartphones, and we'll be following to see if these brands keep the port in future products.

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