Did you know that many of today’s smart phones have an FM radio receiver in them?

It’s true. Many Android smart phones have FM radio receivers built in which wireless carriers block by default. Why would they do that? Simple, because they want you to use your data plan on streaming music services. Duh.  So how do you use the included FM receiver in your phone?

With all of the streaming music options out there, unless you’re in a car every day it’s easy to forget that regular radio still exists. We’ve been herded into this pay per listen model for music through services full of curated playlists, ignoring the free (ad supported) over the air content that has sustained us for decades.

Sure, there are plenty of apps that let you stream online radio stations which use up your data if you’re not on wifi. This makes sense if you’re listening to stations outside of your local area, however, listening to local FM radio on your phone using the FM chip rather than streaming over the internet saves you valuable data and battery life.  If the chip is already in your device, shouldn’t you be able to use it?  Well, you can.

A growing consumer movement is taking shape demanding that wireless carries unblock these FM chips and it seems to be working. Sprint has already unlocked this feature on phones that support it. AT&T, T-Mobile, Blu and Verizon promise to unlock the FM chip in the upcoming year.

Sorry, as of the time of this article Apple doesn’t really seem to care. You WILL subscribe to Apple Music and that’s it.


FM radio Chip activation schedule:

Sprint – Now available on current Android devices
AT&T – Available on upcoming 2016 Android devices
BLU – Available on 2016 Android devices starting in May
T-Mobile – Coming late 2016 or 2017 to new Android devices


What you will need to receive over the air FM radio on your Android smart phone

  1. A smart phone that has an FM chip. You can get a list of supported Android devices here:
  2. The NextRadio App from the play store
  3. Wired ear buds or headphones ( the cord acts as an antenna) .

My usage and experience

I installed NextRadio on my Nexus 5x (Project Fi), Samsung Galaxy Note 4 ( Sprint), and a Nexus 7 Tablet ( Wifi only).

On my Sprint Network Galaxy Note 4 it works flawlessly and picks up all of the local stations that I would normally get with an old school radio. It even picks up some local stations that I’d never heard of before.

Once installed it will scan for local stations. You can set favorites, output to the speaker, and various other options that you would expect from a radio app including a link for more info about a song, options to purchase a track,  list of recently played songs, and even a call button to contact the radio station.

There is also a quick access widget for your home screen.

It is truly over the air, reception static and all. For the most part the stations that come in clear in the car or on any other FM receiver, come in just as clear through the NextRadio app.

The app doesn’t work on my Nexus 7 tablet. My assumption is that the tablet doesn’t have an FM chip.

It also didn’t work on my Nexus 5x running on Project Fi  which uses Sprint, T-Mobile and wifi calling. I contacted Project Fi support and they said that although the don’t offer the option to unlock the chip, they said they are working on some exciting things in the future. Basically neither confirming or denying that they plan on unlocking the FM chip. Generally Project Fi support is great as well as the service, but this was truly a non answer.

NextRadio says it works with phones from and carriers including Sprint, Boost, Virgin, AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, Verizon, Metro PCS and U.S. Cellullar, however that doesn’t necessarily mean that those carriers have unlocked the chip as of yet.

Find out more:

For a full list, and more information on what carriers are working on complying, to contact your carrier or to join the movement to force all carriers to unlock the FM chip visit https://freeradioonmyphone.org/

For more information on the availability of FM radio in today’s smartphones,
visit: https://nabpilot.org/work/projects/fm-radio-in-smartphones/

For a complete list of FM radio enabled devices that support the free NextRadio app, visit https://nextradioapp.com/supported-devices/

Is your phone or carrier not supported yet?

Let your voice be heard!

Contact Congress, Apple, The FCC or your wireless carrier today to let them know — as a matter of public safety and consumer fairness for data plans — you want your phone’s FM chip activated for constant access to free FM radio!

Let me know if you’ve found this helpful and if the NextRadio app works for you.