It may seem odd but older FM radio stations still remain one of the biggest ways listeners get their hands on music. Bands and artists still rely on radio as a big outlet for their music – digital and downloads might be huge these days, but they haven’t yet squashed the older format. FM radios are still one of the most common signaling devices around today.
It might surprise you that there’s probably an FM radio in your smartphone – which also leads to the surprising revelation that more often than not it’s unused, or unusable, when using the phone in its factory default capacity. But why?
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The first obvious conclusion you can draw is the hypothesis that it’s free – the component comes with the phone but they’re not making a fuss about it. That’s a fair conclusion, and you’re probably right. People still want to sell FM radios for the car, or the desk. It’s still a very lucrative industry and the fact that the tuners are in smartphones, could really be a thorn in the side of radio makers.
If everyone was managing to listen to radio for free via their smartphone desktop radios would most likely disappear – although digital radio would probably remain since it uses quite different tech. It’s just not the time yet to go all digital, so for now smartphones are kept from using the FM frequencies.
There’s of course the digital market itself that’s to blame. On the flip side, music streaming apps and services that charge for both mobile data and the songs themselves probably don’t want you listening to free radio over the air either. The chips are unlikely to go live as interest is very low by big companies.
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Smartphone makers are still putting the chips onto the phones anyway. It costs them ext to nothing and they take up very little space and remain dormant. It’s a sort of gesture from the creators of the devices. Should radio emerge as some kind of feature being offered by a smartphone app, the chips will be ready to use.
Critics have said that the lack of usage on these FM chips is pretty odd, since picking up the signals uses less battery life and data than streaming via wireless internet, plus the chips could be used as a kind of emergency broadcast system should a crisis render cellular networks inert. Maybe one day they will become active, but for now they remain unused.