A new pair of wired earbuds from Blackloud is offering a much simpler way to access local FM radio when the internet’s down or you’ve maxed out your data plan. It might be crackly and prone to interference, but traditional FM radio transmissions are free, and much more reliable in a crisis.
The Blackloud AF1 FM headset works by building its FM tuner into an in-line control box, while the cable functions as the antenna. The headphones then plug into your iPhone via the Lightning jack (a USB Type-C model for Android handsets is planned for next year), and you control radio playback via a companion app. It’s a brute-force solution, since most smartphones still contain hidden FM receivers.
Nevertheless, you can see how it might be useful in this ridiculous promotional ad:
Unless you’re a big radio fan with a limited amount of data, we doubt that you’re going to use the tuner on a regular basis. Instead, it’ll likely serve as an emergency backup. When natural disasters hit, it’s common for cellular services to go down or become overwhelmed, while analog radio towers continue to broadcast. When that happens you’ll just have to hope that you’ve got the electricity needed to keep your power-hungry smartphone charged.
The Blackloud AF1 FM headset is available now for $79.89 directly from Blackloud.