from the Radio-Gaga dept.
The reason why FM receivers are present on smartphones is that they can be used to locate your position by noting a simple thing as signal strength of transmitters. More advanced methods makes use of SNR, frequency deviation and multipath interference characteristics. And the same method can be used for WiFi which of course makes collection of such data very useful for localization purposes where GPS etc isn't useful. Arrival time of a radio signal that is reported to the operator from many devices may also be used for the same purpose.
Samsung says it will be unlocking the FM chips in its future smartphones:
Samsung and NextRadio on Wednesday announced the handset-maker will begin shipping phones in the US and Canada with the FM radio chip unlocked. Currently, Samsung was shipping some devices with the FM radio access unlocked, while others (often dependent upon carrier whims) had a locked FM radio chip.
An unlocked FM radio chip in a smartphone not only provides free access to local radio stations, but also, in emergency situations, access to important information.
What is NextRadio?
Emmis Communications is an American media conglomerate based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The company owns radio stations and magazines in the United States and Slovakia.
[...] The NextRadio smartphone app was developed by Emmis, with support from the National Association of Broadcasters, to take advantage of mobile devices with activated internal FM receivers. NextRadio allows users of select FM-enabled smartphones to listen to live broadcast FM radio while receiving supplemental data such as album art, program information, and metadata over the internet. Launched in August 2013 through a radio industry agreement with Sprint Corporation, the app is available preloaded on select devices it is also available for download in the Google Play Store.
Do you need to use their app to access the FM chip? The press release says:
Market leaders like Samsung are taking the step of unlocking the FM Chip, which will allow Samsung users to connect directly with the NextRadio app, listen to their favorite local stations, and use less battery and less data than streaming radio apps.
Take "unlocked" with a grain of salt.