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There’s a little-known feature most smartphones have hidden inside. It’s a common technology that you use in your car or at home. However, most people don’t know they have it on their phone.
In case you haven’t guessed already your smartphone probably has an FM radio receiver built right into it. You just need to activate it, and you’ll then have an FM tuner on your phone.
In this article, we explain how to listen to radio on your phone by unlocking the hidden FM tuner.
The FM Tuner Locked Inside Your Smartphone
It might seem strange that smartphone manufacturers would include an FM receiver and not tell their users about it. There is a reason, though.
The ability to access the radio comes from the Qualcomm LTE modem in smartphones. They most likely include this capability because using a smartphone to access the radio is common in the developing world. And it’s simpler to deactivate the radio chip than to use completely different modems for phones sold in different areas.
Although manufacturers can decide to universally activate the chip, its on owners to unlock the FM radio on their smartphone. In terms of carriers, many major ones allow for the opportunity already. We don’t know for sure why some companies won’t activate the chips, but there are several theories kicking around:
Some companies say they don’t see an FM radio as a big selling point or something consumers would actually want. Critics argue that the real reason is the financial incentive for not activating them. Because doing so would discourage people from using streaming services, which makes money for everyone involved.
How to Unlock the FM Tuner
If you have a supported device and carrier, accessing your device’s FM radio isn’t difficult. You only need two things: an app called NextRadio and wired headphones or a speaker to act as an antenna. NextRadio has published a list of devices and carriers that support NextRadio.
Once you’ve determined if your phone supports NextRadio, you’ll have to use Google Play. Unfortunately, Apple removed NextRadio from its app store as of 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 wasn’t a total waste.
If the app detects an activated FM chip, the next thing you’ll need is an antenna. This is easier than it sounds. Practically anything that plugs into your device and has a wire will work. That means you can use your headphones or a wired speaker.
If you aren’t using a speaker, you don’t have to listen through the headphones you connected. You can choose to direct the sound to your phone’s speakers as well. Unfortunately, there’s no Bluetooth support at this time.
Download: NextRadio for Android (Free)
The Current State of NextRadio
NextRadio has returned to the 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, keep these alerts in mind:
These are all leftovers from when the app supported streaming and had limited data usage. The search function doesn’t properly work either, so just put all your attention onto the basic FM tuner initially. You can still list favorite stations, so you can create an FM radio playlist over time.
The Benefits of Using FM Radio
Although you can download several apps to stream radio stations, using an FM tuner has separate benefits.
Probably 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 it would be in your car or on another 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 a lot of stations by streaming, streaming services won’t always have access to all of your local stations. If you’re accessing them via FM radio, you’ll find every station that’s available in your area.
The FCC recommends having a radio for emergency situations such as tornadoes or severe storms. This ensures you can stay informed or communicate if the phone lines and the internet both go down. Since home radios aren’t as common anymore, turning smartphones into radios makes perfect sense.
Tips for How to Use Your FM Chip
Use these two tips for your radio-activated device:
- Keep Your Phone Charged Before Potential Emergencies: If you suspect an emergency situation could occur soon, make sure to fully charge your phone. This way you can use it as an emergency radio even if the power goes out. Pay attention to severe weather warnings, and keep a mobile charger on hand if you’re out and about.
- Use the Radio to Save Your Battery: Whether you’re in an emergency situation or are just using your phone casually, battery life is important. If you want your battery to last longer, use the radio to listen to music instead of streaming it. Tapping into FM signals requires less energy than using an internet connection, so you can add it to a repertoire of proven ways to extend battery life on Android.
Although you might not even realize you own a radio, there’s probably one in your pocket most of the time. You just can’t use it unless you download the right app. Or, in some cases, unless your phone’s manufacturer or your wireless carrier activates the FM chip in your device.
Some companies have now started to activate the radio receivers in their devices. However, it may still be a while before activated radio receivers become the standard for smartphones around the world. Until then, those that don’t have supported devices might want to get a small radio for emergencies.
For those that do have supported devices, it’s your lucky day. You just discovered an extra feature that makes your phone just a little more fun and useful.
Unlock the FM Radio on Your Smartphone
Now that you know how to activate and listen to the radio on your phone, consider these lasting benefits. During an emergency, you have an extra way to stay informed. And for general use, there’s always a way to save battery life and data while using your phone.
If you’re craving more information on other FM apps, check out our article discussing whether FM transmitter apps work.