Samsung, the largest maker of Android mobile devices, is unlocking the FM Chip in new smartphone models in the United States and Canada.
Many cell phones already include hardware that makes them able to receive free FM radio signals. Now manufacturers such as Samsung are unlocking the chip, which will allow consumers to listen to their favourite radio stations. The move will allow listeners to save battery life and use less data than streaming radio apps.
“Samsung should be lauded for taking this important step,” explained Paul Brenner, President of NextRadio powered by TagStation. “They are providing their customers with a more engaging, immersive radio experience and, as importantly, a means to connect with life-saving information in emergencies.”
The FM Chip can be used during emergencies when cellular coverage is unavailable or congested. It will allow listeners to receive important and potentially life-saving information from local radio stations. The broadcaster-backed app NextRadio can be used with smartphones that have an active FM chip.
Following hurricane disasters in Puerto Rico, Texas, and Florida, many have called for manufacturers to unlock the chip to help the public during life-threatening situations. LG, Motorola, and Alcatel already offer this important service.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission called on Apple to activate the hidden chip on its iPhones. Apple said older phones include other safety features, while the newer 7 and 8 models don’t have the chip at all.
Manufacturers deactivate the chips for several reasons, but one of the major ones is because if a consumer can listen to FM radio for free, he or she is less likely to pay for music and additional data. While Samsung and other companies have changed their mind about the chips, “Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so,” according to FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
Meanwhile, radio is not dead. Toronto has the highest average radio audience in the country, with over 5.41 million people tuning in every day. Canadians spend an average of nearly 17 hours a week listening to the radio. While most listening is done by seniors, those aged 18 to 34 spend about 13 hours per week doing so.