a VFD display on a digital FM radio tuner

A new report from CBC News details the progress being made to unlock the FM radio chip that many smartphones feature. Many smartphones have an untapped FM chip inside them that users are unable to take advantage of and while many Android devices are confirmed to have the chip, the iPhone also has despite Apple not officially recognizing it.

A petition has been running in the United States to urge carriers and manufacturers to unlock the hidden FM chip in smartphones. The campaign has gained significant steam since its inception, so much so that carriers are starting to agree to unlock the chip.

Samsung U28E590D 28-Inch 4K Monitor

In the United States, Sprint, AT&T, Blu, and T-Mobile have all agreed to activate the chip in Android smartphones. Sprint says the capability is available now on current Android devices, while AT&T, Blu, and T-Mobile all say it is coming soon.

Following the success of the United States campaign, a petition titled “free radio on my phone” has now launched in Canada, as well, with users hoping to urge Canadian carriers to follow in the footsteps of United States carriers and activate the chip.

The National Association of Broadcasters first called on Apple to unlock the iPhone’s FM chip a little over the year, noting that FM radio has a handful of benefits over streamed radio. FEMA also called for Apple to switch on the FM radio, citing its usable in emergency situations.

In the past, however, some have said that it’s not as simple as just flipping a switch. Like most radios, a smartphone would still require an antenna in order to pick up stations. Although one idea that has been suggested multiple times is using a pair of headphones as the antenna.

The use cases for the feature are important ones. As data and cell towers can quickly become overwhelmed in emergency situations, the ability to still communicate is something that’s greatly needed.

Is FM radio a function you’d ever be likely to use if it were available on your smartphone? Let us know your views in the comments.

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