Sunday May 22, 2016

Why don't smartphones use their built-in FM antenna?

A smartphone in the US with its FM radio chip activiated.

A smartphone in the US with its FM radio chip activiated. (TheTechTechies/Creative Commons)

Listen 11:11

This story first aired in May 2016.


Many of us listen to radio over the internet. And many people, especially millennials, don't even own a radio besides the one that's in their car - if they even have a car, that is.

But here's something we bet you didn't know: your smartphone probably has a built-in chip designed to pick up a radio signal.

For free.

Without using any data or wifi. So you could listen to the radio without a cellphone signal, like at a remote campsite.

Or more important, receive emergency transmissions without requiring a data plan, which might have been helpful to people trying to escape the wildfires in Fort McMurray

Trouble is, even though these chips are in most phones, we can't use them. Phone carriers and manufacturers don't switch them on.

This doesn't sit well with a growing number of people, including Barry Rooke.

Barry is the executive director of the National Campus and Community Radio Association and he's formed a consortium of broadcasters, including CBC, and radio listeners who would like to see the FM radio chip activated.

Listen to the interview, and tell us what you think. Should the FM chips in smartphones be activated? Leave a response in the comments below.