The beloved FM radio is getting a mobile revival with news that Samsung is teaming up with NextRadio to unlock the FM chips in new Samsung devices in the US and Canada. There are no hardware changes, as FM receivers are already present in most smartphones, but not all smartphone makers activate them.
NextRadio is a broadcaster-backed app that works with smartphones containing active FM chips (including devices from HTC, Motorola, and LG), letting users listen to local radio stations. This uses less data and battery power than connecting to radio apps, though of course, there’s less control over what you listen to. Aside from the nostalgia factor, FM radio broadcasts can be life-saving, especially in emergency situations when information is transmitted via radio waves. If the mobile internet is down, having access to local radio stations through an FM chip would be an invaluable asset.
The FCC has previously asked Apple to activate the iPhone’s hidden FM radio to aid public safety. Apple replied that its newer iPhone 7 and 8 models don’t actually have the necessary chip, and claimed that older phones already include other safety features. FCC chairman Ajit Pai has previously said that about 44 percent of the “top-selling smartphones” in the US had activated FM radios compared to 80 percent in Mexico.