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Carriers yielding to petition to unlock FM radios on many smartphones

Many smartphones on the market today ship with FM radios included as part of the hardware, but carriers would prefer that you use up your precious data instead.

Published onMay 17, 2016

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Many smartphones on the market today ship with FM radios included as part of the hardware. The only thing preventing you from tuning into your favorite rock station or local golden oldies is that this FM functionality is shipped turned off. However, a Canada-originating campaign to end the tyranny of radio-less phones has been gaining quite a bit of traction, and carriers are actually starting to bend. In the US, at least. Canadian carriers are still reluctant to put in the request to manufacturers to turn the FM feature on.

Why wouldn’t carriers want you to have a radio on your phone? The answer is actually pretty straightforward: most carriers would prefer that you get your music by powering through your data plan into extra charges or let you feel the pressure to upgrade to a larger, more expensive plan. The “Free Radio on my Phone” petition thinks this is more than a little shady. “They make a lot more money off of streaming radio or other sources through the data transfer,” says Barry Rooke, the campaign organizer.

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The US arm of the organization has seen results fairly quickly. Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile have agreed to unlock any FM radios on Android smartphones. End users aren’t the only ones who see the potential good in this plan. Radio organizations are eager to put FM radios in everyone’s pockets due to increased competition with podcasts and other modern forms of mobile entertainment. Also, groups concerned with large-scale public safety like FEMA believe that activating FM radios would give people an avenue of information reception in times of crisis, times during which cellular networks are rapidly overwhelmed.

What do you think of this push to enable radio functionality on Android smartphones? The campaign believe that iPhones also have this capability, but Apple has been silent on the topic. If your phone had FM capabilities, would you actually put them to use? Let us know in the comments below!

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