It’s weird that the FM radio — a basic feature found in most smartphones for years now — has slowly dropped off the map. It’s not because these devices don’t have the necessary hardware, in fact, most do. It actually has more to do with carriers who need to give manufacturers the green light to activate the dormant feature inside devices running on their networks. Somehow, we’re not surprised.
Thanks to the “Free Radio On My Phone” campaign, carriers like T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T have agreed unlock this functionality for devices on their network. This explains the recent software update for the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge on T-Mobile that added an FM radio seemingly out of nowhere. Last August — in response to a tweet from NextRadio — T-Mobile CEO John Legere publicly pledged to support for FM radio, pending OEM partner support.
While it’s great to finally see the fruits of that promise manifest themselves, the campaign, backed by National Public Radio, American Public Media, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, still has their work cut out for them. Both Verizon (the largest wireless network in the nation) and Apple (the country’s most successful smartphone maker) are still holding out. According to America’s National Association of Broadcasters Dennis Wharton, “It’s a process of education and friendly arm twisting.” We say — Twist. Harder.
The campaign has since spread to north, where it’s now putting the heat on Canadian carriers to unlock FM radios on their devices. Bell says it already offers some devices with FM radios activated out of the box, but the campaign is looking to unlock all of them. As for Rogers, apparently they don’t yet offer devices with this functionality but said it’s “on their radar” for what’s it worth.
Aside from providing users with leisurely music listening, FM radio is something that could prove useful in the event of an emergency. But we’re guessing it’s the data-free part that has carriers reluctant to sign on which could soon change if the FCC finally gets on board.