The CEO of Emmis Radio has been on a campaign for a long time to get cell phone makers to enable their capability to listen to FM radio stations (the Wifi connection is itself just an FM receiver, so this isn’t novel hardware, just tuning to the right frequency). Jeff Smulyan initially wanted the government to swing the hammer at the cell phone companies to force every cell phone to run his NextRadio software. Eventually, the NAB decided it liked the idea, and NPR joined in – probably because they haven’t thought about it enough, like who controls the patents for NextRadio and what they want for licensing it.
AT&T has announced that its new Android phones will have the chips enabled to get “over the air” FM radio on your cell phone. You’ll need to be wearing earbuds as the cord is where the FM antenna is located.
If consumers want this – Verizon and T-Mobile will have little choice but to go along. Sprint is already on the bandwagon. Apple will be a hard sell as people listening to the radio and buying music from the app undercuts the iTunes / Apple Radio business model. Is the inability of your cell phone to listen to FM radio enough to get you to switch from your iPhone/iPad to Android?
When you’re listening to the FM station on your phone, you’re not burning cell data. I’m thinking to use the FM radio, you have to disable Wifi since it shares the same hardware, but I don’t know that for a fact.
The “down side” of course is you’re using an FM radio and not a particularly good one – you are limited to just those stations that have a transmitter in your local area. If you’re in Florida, no listening to radio stations in Los Angeles. No AM, either (no big deal).
Let the battle of the ears begin.
By the way, SiriusXM expects to hit 30 million paying subscribers this year. Pay no attention to that.
The timing of this happening the same week that the government approved the AT&T/DirecTV merger is purely a coincidence.