LG is planning on enabling free FM radio listening capabilities in its future devices sold across North America and Latin America, the company announced in a press release.
The South Korean smartphone maker is partnering with NextRadio, the makers of a free radio streaming app, to enable the onboard FM chips in its future smartphones. That will allow LG device users unrestricted access to live, local radio for free across the U.S., Canada and much of Latin America— even when cellular service is poor or nonexistent.
Additionally, as part of the partnership, LG will preinstall the NextRadio app on its devices going forward. It’s worth noting that the NextRadio app is able to stream live radio via a cellular or Wi-Fi connection without a device’s FM chip enabled. But with the direct FM connection, a device will use 3 times less battery and 20 times less data than streaming, NextRadio added.
Unbeknownst to most handset users, basically every modern smartphone already has an FM chip — often baked into LTE modems. In the U.S., however, the vast majority of these FM chips are never activated. According to the National Association of Broadcasters, less than 44 percent of top-selling smartphones have their chips enabled. That number is even less on Apple devices: 94 percent of all smartphones with inactive FM chips are iPhones, the NAB reported.
LG’s latest move coincides with a larger effort to get smartphone FM chips enabled across the board. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is among those who think that FM capabilities should be turned on — both for user convenience and public safety reasons. “It seems odd that every day we hear about a new smartphone app that lets you do something innovative, yet these modern-day mobile miracles don’t enable a key function offered by a 1982 Sony Walkman,” Pai said at the Future of Radio and Audio Symposium earlier this year.