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article imageCampaign pressures mobile networks to turn on smartphone FM radio

By James Walker     May 16, 2016 in Technology
A Canadian campaign is attempting to force mobile operators to turn on the FM radio chips in modern smartphones. The majority of devices do support FM radio but the chip is factory disabled, preventing people from accessing news, weather and free music.
CBC News reports that the Free Radio On My Phone campaign is designed to convince Canadian mobile networks to enable the FM radio chips on customer phones. The FM radio could be turned on with a simple software update. Users could then install an app to use the functionality.
The campaign argues that smartphone users should not be forced to pay for music through streaming services such as Spotify when free audio is already available over the airwaves. FM radio also consumes very little battery life and doesn't touch your data plan, making it truly free even while on the go.
In times of natural disaster or during power outages, FM radio can be the only place to go to find accurate news and weather reports. In these situations, the radio could prove to be life-saving. In most smartphones, the chip that could facilitate access to these communications is turned off though, in part because carriers want you to use your costly data plan to stream music, becoming a more valuable customer.
"Today's smartphones already have an FM receiver built in," the campaign's headline message reads. "This means that everyone could have free and easy access to radio for the entertainment they love and information they need, but those FM receivers are not activated by all wireless carriers and phone makers. Listening to radio on your phone using the FM chip instead of over the internet saves you valuable data and battery life."
A similar campaign in the U.S. has almost entirely succeeded in its aim. Last year, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile enabled the FM radio chips inside Android phones. Verizon, the other major U.S. operator, has yet to follow suit though.
In Canada, some phones can be bought with the FM radio turned on but many cannot. When contacted by CBC News, Canadian operator Bell Canada said some of its phones include activated FM radios. Rogers said it does not enable the FM radio but is aware of customer demand. Telus and Shaw did not comment.
In some cases, the device manufacturer may also be accountable for the disabling. Apple's iPhone includes an FM radio chip but the company has never enabled it for customers. In an unusual move, Microsoft recently confirmed it intends to remove its FM Radio app from all Windows 10 Mobile devices, making it harder to access the service. Users will still be able to use the radio with third-party apps though.
With increasing pressure to activate FM radios, device manufacturers and networks may soon be forced to respond. The campaigns also has the support of radio broadcasters who would welcome the activation of FM radio on smartphones. The rise of streaming services has hurt traditional broadcasters as they are no longer the easiest way to listen to a diverse range of music while on the move.
More about mobile network, Smartphones, FM Radio, Radio, Campaign
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