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posted by Fnord666 on Monday February 20 2017, @07:24AM   Printer-friendly
from the what's-the-catch? dept.

In a speech given to the Future of Radio and Audio Symposium (PDF), Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai encouraged smartphone makers to activate FM radio chips, but stopped short of supporting a government mandate to do so:

As you know, the vast majority of smartphones sold in the United States do, in fact, contain FM chips. The problem is that most of them aren't activated. As of last fall, only about 44% of the topselling smartphones in the United States have activated FM chips, and the percentage is lower in Canada. By comparison, in Mexico that number is about 80%. So it's not just that the United States and Canada could be doing better. We could be doing a lot better. 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.

You could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone. The former head of our Federal Emergency Management Administration has spoken out in support of this proposal. The FCC has an expert advisory panel on public safety issues that has also advocated enabling FM radio chips on smartphones. It pointed out that, "[h]aving access to terrestrial FM radio broadcasts, as opposed to streaming audio services, may enable smartphone users to receive broadcast-based EAS alerts and other vital information in emergency situations—particularly when the wireless network is down or overloaded."

Moreover, most consumers would love to access some of their favorite content over-the-air, while using one-sixth of the battery life and less data. As more and more Americans use activated FM chips in their smartphones, consumer demand for smartphones with activated FM chips should continue to increase.

I'll keep speaking out about the benefits of activating FM chips. Having said that, as a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips. I don't believe the FCC has the power to issue a mandate like that, and more generally I believe it's best to sort this issue out in the marketplace. For despite the low numbers, we are seeing progress; in the last two years, the percentage of top-selling smartphones in the United States that have activated FM chips has risen from less than 25% to 44%.

Reported at Chicago Tribune and Recode.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Samsung to "Unlock" FM Chip in Galaxy S9 and Future Smartphones 21 comments

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.

Previously: FCC Chairman Encourages Activation of FM Chips in Smartphones
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai Calls on Apple to Activate Imaginary FM Chips

Related: Smartphone with FM Radio Tells Your Position
Developers Working to Get FM Radio Function Enabled in BQ Ubuntu Phones
Norway to Become 1st Country to Switch Off FM Radio


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @07:36AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @07:36AM (#469195)

    If there was any doubt that these FM chips are tracking us, let this news dispel it!

    • (Score: -1, Spam) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @07:41AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @07:41AM (#469197)

      jej

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @08:10AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @08:10AM (#469204)

      On my phone I have to disable "Airplane mode" for the FM chip to work.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Phoenix666 on Monday February 20 2017, @01:58PM

      by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 20 2017, @01:58PM (#469257) Journal

      I had been hanging onto my old Samsung because it has the physical keyboard that phones don't have anymore. Not having an FM chip gives me one more reason to keep it.

      --
      Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Valkor on Monday February 20 2017, @07:42AM

    by Valkor (4253) on Monday February 20 2017, @07:42AM (#469198) Homepage

    As always carriers don't allow it because of money. I'm fortunate enough to have a device that allows exactly one proprietary app to use it, and the app is clever enough to bypass my ad blocking to show ads.

    • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Monday February 20 2017, @08:51AM

      by davester666 (155) on Monday February 20 2017, @08:51AM (#469208)

      Well, it is also a feature that only works if you use a wired headset, because it needs to use that as the antennae...

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @09:27AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @09:27AM (#469218)

        But that's just physics: You need some longer antenna to receive the frequency range FM radio is transmitted on. Therefore you can either use a separate antenna cable, or you can re-use the cable of a headset for the antenna. I think the second option is the better one.

        There's however no reason why use of a headset as antenna should preclude the option to use the internal speaker for playing.

        • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Monday February 20 2017, @08:39PM

          by davester666 (155) on Monday February 20 2017, @08:39PM (#469427)

          That's just it. The article just talks about "activating the fm chip" like that's all there is to it, just enable the feature of the chip, write an app to set the station and that's all there is to it. But it's not. You also need to make an external antennae for it, either as part of wired earbuds or as a separate antennae.

          For existing devices, with a headphone socket, there is no guarantee the chip's antennae port is connected to the headphone socket, or anywhere else for that matter.

          For new devices, I suppose the gov't could require all cell phones to have this specific feature, namely to have a FM receiver, at some additional cost (as there are always costs for every new feature, which this is).

          And if you don't use wired earbuds (and I haven't in years), you still need to deploy the antennae, either just hanging from the device or clipping it to your clothing, as it doesn't work nearly as well all balled up in your pocket. And you need a port to plug it into, as some newer phones don't even have a headphone jack.

        • (Score: 2) by dry on Tuesday February 21 2017, @04:00AM

          by dry (223) on Tuesday February 21 2017, @04:00AM (#469566)

          The FM app that came with my phone has a preference that allows using the headphones or keeping the internal speaker working.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by terrab0t on Monday February 20 2017, @09:57AM

        by terrab0t (4674) on Monday February 20 2017, @09:57AM (#469224)

        Mine gets good reception so long as I am holding it in my hand. I guess my body acts as an antenna somehow.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @10:35AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @10:35AM (#469226)

          Given my experience with dedicated radios, I'm not surprised. Without exception, when reception is bad, I always can vastly improve the reception quality by touching the antenna. Indeed, quite often the reception changes from annoyingly bad to almost perfect by this measure.

          Interestingly, for one radio with built-in clock, an even greater improvement is achieved if I hold the "set clock" button pressed.

        • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Monday February 20 2017, @01:17PM

          by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 20 2017, @01:17PM (#469249) Homepage Journal

          Remember rabbit ears on the TV?

          Man, those sucked: just walking past the TV fecked the reception. Sometimes you couldn't sit directly in front of the tv, you had to sit off to the side, shit like that.

          If you held the ears, the reception was great: put them down and you got snow.

          Sucked.

          --
          --- That's not flying: that's... falling... with more luck than I have. ---
          • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @03:47PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @03:47PM (#469286)

            I have those on my television but I don't get snow. I get coloured rectangles.

          • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Monday February 20 2017, @08:51PM

            by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Monday February 20 2017, @08:51PM (#469432) Homepage Journal

            You either were too far from the stations or had a shitty tuner on the TV. I'm using rabbit ears on my new TV right now, because paying for cable in the digital age is stupid. There's no more snow or ghosts or static in the sound, just a 1080p picture and good sound, with three or four times as many channels as before the digital switch.

            Cable is obsolete.

            --
            Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
            • (Score: 2) by dry on Tuesday February 21 2017, @04:07AM

              by dry (223) on Tuesday February 21 2017, @04:07AM (#469569)

              Digital uses the high frequencies that don't travel as well. Here, with a good outside antenna, went from 10 or 11 channels with 2-3 having close to perfect reception to zero when they switched over. If cable existed here, I'm sure the wife would demand it. Be handy for internet too.

    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Monday February 20 2017, @08:46PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Monday February 20 2017, @08:46PM (#469430) Homepage Journal

      That doesn't explain my carrier's probable stupidity. I'm on Boost, data are unlimited. My phone is on the list of phones with the FM chips, but the chip is turned off.

      Stupid, because if I'm streaming a local station, I'm eating up their bandwidth as well as my battery.

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by anubi on Monday February 20 2017, @10:47AM

    by anubi (2828) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 20 2017, @10:47AM (#469228)

    This source says: [freeradioonmyphone.org]

    An enabled FM Chip in your smartphone can make the difference in an emergency situation by allowing you to still hear critical updates. It will also let you listen to your local NPR/APM using three times less battery and twenty times less data than streaming. Learn more at FreeRadioOnMyPhone.org. Sponsored by NextRadio app

    I am put off by "twenty times less data".

    It should not use *any*!

    It should be receiving standalone FM with no oversight by anyone on the web.

    In an emergency, cell towers are apt to be overloaded.

    If the phone can't get its "data", will the FM chip work standalone?

    If not, this is not reliable for emergency use. Its just more businesstalk to hock something up that *sounds* useful.

    --
    "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday February 20 2017, @02:27PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 20 2017, @02:27PM (#469262)

      My guess is the app author is monetizing the work by selling your use stats directly to stations or ratings companies or something.

      So three MQTT publish go out every minute with a lat/lon/frequency plus maybe your secret private stuff (FB login, email addrs, who knows)

      I have a different problem in that the local FM radio sux and is staffed by morons and the only realistic emergency situation where I live is weather related in which point I go to weather.gov which is faster than local TV and radio stations and is un-DDOS-able, even when parts of the country are having hurricanes or daily tornados weather.gov chugs along like nothing is happening so I can't imagine using FM radio.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Scruffy Beard 2 on Monday February 20 2017, @04:56PM

      by Scruffy Beard 2 (6030) on Monday February 20 2017, @04:56PM (#469315)

      You made me check the permissions of the "Radio" app on my phone.

      • directly call phone numbers
      • Receive text messages (SMS/WAP)
      • take pictures and video
      • record audio
      • location (precise and coarse)
      • Modify contacts
      • read call log
      • read contacts
      • read own contact card
      • modify/delete SD card contents
      • test access to protected storage
      • disable screen lock
      • find accounts on the device
      • Use accounts on the device
      • view configured accounts
      • read terms you added to the dictionary
      • change system display settings
      • modify secure system settings
      • read system log files
      • change network connectivity (insert more specific list)
      • Access Bluetooth settings, pair with bluetooth devices
      • close other apps
      • retrieve running applications
      • run at startup
      • draw over other apps
      • control flashlight
      • control vibrator
      • prevent phone from sleeping
      • write to user defined dictionary
      • set wallpaper
      • set time zone
      • change audio settings
      • read sync settings
      • read sync statistics
      • toggle sync on and off
      • access extra location provider commands
      • modify global system settings
      • read home settings and shortcuts
      • write home settings ans shortcuts
      • com.jrd.permissions.SWITCH_JRDTHEME

      ...Appears to be a back-door to me.

      • (Score: 2) by Scruffy Beard 2 on Monday February 20 2017, @04:59PM

        by Scruffy Beard 2 (6030) on Monday February 20 2017, @04:59PM (#469317)

        The explanatory note says the app has those permissions because it runs in the same process as com.tct.tctfeedbackhelper. That process is apparently supposed to run the whole phone.

    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Monday February 20 2017, @08:54PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Monday February 20 2017, @08:54PM (#469433) Homepage Journal

      They've been advertising the hell out of the on KSHE's stream; the more streaming listeners they have, the higher their cost. The data, according to the ads, is to provide cover art and crap like that, that I really don't need when I'm listening to the radio.

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
    • (Score: 2) by cafebabe on Tuesday February 21 2017, @01:04AM

      by cafebabe (894) on Tuesday February 21 2017, @01:04AM (#469522) Journal

      In an emergency, cell towers are apt to be overloaded.

      If the phone can't get its "data", will the FM chip work standalone?

      Don't worry. Central Licensing [gnu.org] will get the full report of your radio listening when the connection is restored.

      --
      Enjoy life. Enjoy Ainol. [wikipedia.org]
    • (Score: 2) by dry on Tuesday February 21 2017, @04:12AM

      by dry (223) on Tuesday February 21 2017, @04:12AM (#469571)

      My phones FM app works fine here without a cell signal. Even works in airplane mode. Only permissions it has are microphone and storage, storage for recording the radio and microphone includes headphone from what I can tell.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 21 2017, @05:52AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 21 2017, @05:52AM (#469592)

        Only permissions it has are microphone and storage

        Well, don't leave us hanging.
        Android?
        What's the name of the app? License?
        Pre-installed? If so, what make/model?

        -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

        • (Score: 2) by dry on Wednesday February 22 2017, @02:42AM

          by dry (223) on Wednesday February 22 2017, @02:42AM (#469959)

          It's a cheap pay as you go Moto E, Canadian version and the FM app that came with it, about says it's a Moto app.
          It's a nice phone for the price, no carrier stuff, just stock Andriod and a couple of Moto apps.

      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Tuesday February 21 2017, @06:42AM

        by anubi (2828) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 21 2017, @06:42AM (#469602)

        Can you share which app you are using? I am ( failing ) to use the NextRadio app that came bundled in my BLU phone. Like a lot of the other crapware, its insisting I connect to Google Services before it will allow the radio to play. So, I just do not use it.

        I wanted to stay a bit aloof with this phone before I gave it ( via Google ) too much information, as if my constant barrage of unwanted advertising in my browser in a foreteller of what to expect when I want to take or place a call.

        I have a standalone FM/AM/Shortwave ( TECSUN ) battery receiver for emergencies, but easy accessibility to AM, FM, or TV is kinda a thing of the past for me. Although I think its a wonderful idea to have a cellphone be able to act as a radio or TV receiver, I also know there are those who will profit by reining me into their corral of allowable actions and things I can use a purchased device for. Which is also the main driver for my disdain for purchased goods. Its not the price, rather its like begging Dad for the car keys instead of having my own.

        The "purchased thing" only drives on approved roads with permission, whereas the "open source thing" is like an ATV that goes anywhere.

        I have to assume its some sort of open-source thing that will just turn on the FM receiver chip, get the setup from the keypad, and route the audio to the speaker.... and nothing else.

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
        • (Score: 3, Informative) by dry on Wednesday February 22 2017, @02:55AM

          by dry (223) on Wednesday February 22 2017, @02:55AM (#469961)

          It's the app that came with my Moto E, Canadian edition sold by Fido (Rogers) About says "Version 02.02.0084 of FM Radio, Copyright 2015 Motorola Mobility LLC. All rights reserved"
          It's a nice phone for the price, no crap on it, just stock Android apps and not too many as well as a few Motorola apps. Even gets updates.

          • (Score: 1) by anubi on Wednesday February 22 2017, @05:40AM

            by anubi (2828) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 22 2017, @05:40AM (#470011)

            Thanks... Wish my BLU phone came with that instead of this thing that seems to want to connect to someone else before it will tune to an FM station.

            When I was playing around with mine, I considered my bundled app to be a useless piece of crapware junk whose sole function was to give yet someone else control over my phone.

            Seems that marketeers are of another race... the Ferringi.

            --
            "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
  • (Score: 2) by Username on Monday February 20 2017, @12:41PM

    by Username (4557) on Monday February 20 2017, @12:41PM (#469244)

    Doesn’t all cellphones have a frequency modulator? How else does the signal get to the base station? AM?

    • (Score: 2) by Username on Monday February 20 2017, @12:45PM

      by Username (4557) on Monday February 20 2017, @12:45PM (#469245)

      How the fuck do you activate a chip? Short some pins? or they mean like a software lockout. untuneable.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday February 20 2017, @02:31PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 20 2017, @02:31PM (#469263)

        Sorta, imagine a linux box without a 3c509 ethernet driver compiled in, but a card physically installed. You can see it by running lspci but without a driver to run it, you ain't getting /dev/eth0

        I remember compiling my own kernels until at least a couple years into the modular kernel era, say late 90s.

        On the microcontroller level say you attach a I2C temperature sensor to a I2C bus, like I did last weekend. It'll be present and load the bus down and waste microamps of standby current, but do nothing at all until you make some kind of driver that actually talks to it.

        • (Score: 2) by Username on Monday February 20 2017, @11:29PM

          by Username (4557) on Monday February 20 2017, @11:29PM (#469493)

          Driver level stuff is magic, I let other people do that.

    • (Score: 2) by shipofgold on Monday February 20 2017, @01:23PM

      by shipofgold (4696) on Monday February 20 2017, @01:23PM (#469252)

      3G and 4G phones rely on a much more complicated method of transmission than simple analog FM or even digital FM radio. FM uses a fixed frequency range for each broadcaster. Digital radio allows multiple streams to be multiplexed, but nowhere near the number of Mobile Telephone streams going on at any given time. 3G and 4G phones use a spread spectrum type of transmission where your voice/data are transmitted across a broad range of frequencies, simultaneously with many other users using those same frequencies. This allows many more users to utilize the available frequencies than if each user were assigned their own frequency.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by butthurt on Monday February 20 2017, @04:26PM

      by butthurt (6141) on Monday February 20 2017, @04:26PM (#469300) Journal

      LTE uses quadrature amplitude modulation for the downlink and Single Carrier Frequency Division Multiplex for the uplink.

      http://www.radio-electronics.com/info/cellulartelecomms/lte-long-term-evolution/lte-ofdm-ofdma-scfdma.php [radio-electronics.com]

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by iamjacksusername on Monday February 20 2017, @03:19PM

    by iamjacksusername (1479) on Monday February 20 2017, @03:19PM (#469274)

    In 2016, 191 million phones were sold in the North America. The RIAA wants a piece of that pie. I am sure there will be some "royalty" added to the sale of each smartphone once FM becomes mandatory.

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/412212/global-smartphone-shipments-north-america/ [statista.com]

    The broadcast industry is dying. I do not know anybody under the age of 60 that listens to Broadcast radio. Addtionally, many young people today do not own a car. For example, the only FM radio I own is the one that came with my car. Because of this, the broadcast industry is missing out on a whole demographic simply because they do not have access. The RIAA controls FM radio as they use it as a promotional tool so FM Radio broadcasters pay close to $0 in royalties. By including FM for free on the phone, the RIAA has a captive channel to groups they do not currently have access to.

    Internet streaming is not the money maker the RIAA hoped it would be. It turns out that most people do not care so much about the music they listen to and are not willing to pay a monthly fee. So, it's back to the promotional model. There is a reason that YouTube has become the goto platform for music promotion that professional promoters are willing to pay to use: it is free to consume and ubiquitous.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @05:35PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20 2017, @05:35PM (#469342)

      I sometimes download the pod cast of this American life, does that count as MAILCHIP radio?

    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Monday February 20 2017, @08:59PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Monday February 20 2017, @08:59PM (#469434) Homepage Journal

      In 2016, 191 million phones were sold in the North America. The RIAA wants a piece of that pie. I am sure there will be some "royalty" added to the sale of each smartphone once FM becomes mandatory.

      I don't think so, hardware manufacturers are far more politically connected than the RIAA, and that would raise the retail price of their phones with them getting no benefit. AFAIK the RIAA gets nothing from the sale of a radio, why should a radio in a phone be any different than a radio in a car or a pocket, sans phone?

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
    • (Score: 2) by dry on Tuesday February 21 2017, @04:18AM

      by dry (223) on Tuesday February 21 2017, @04:18AM (#469572)

      I'm under 60 and regularly listen to the radio as there isn't much else to listen to at home, bored of my music while driving and radio is about the only reasonably priced choice at my work. With the price of cell service in Canada, I've better things to do with my money.,

    • (Score: 2) by gidds on Tuesday February 21 2017, @02:50PM

      by gidds (589) on Tuesday February 21 2017, @02:50PM (#469690)

      I suspect this is a location-dependent issue.  Here in the UK, radio listening is still pretty popular.

      DAB is taking some share away from FM, but they're both free-to-air, broadcast media.  (Many channels are also broadcast on Freeview, the terrestrial digital TV platform, ditto.)

      --
      [sig redacted]