Is FM Radio on a Smartphone still a Must have Feature?

are fm radios a must have feature in smartphones

The best-selling smartphones in the world so far are either Apple’s iPhones or Samsung’s latest Galaxy Flagship phones. And both these phones don’t come with in FM Radio chips incorporated. It’s not the first time am writing about FM Radios in phones. In fact when the Galaxy s4 was first announced and I discovered that the FM Radio feature was absent, I ranted about it in one of my early blogs posts. I would highly recommend to read that before you can resume on this one.

FM radio app radio uganda
Radio Uganda Android App

Samsung’s Official statement back then was that

[signoff predefined=”Movie Review Signoff” icon=”icon-comments”]Our studies show a trend shift of interest to digital broadcasting, specifically – focus on listening to music content in social networks or on the channel YouTube. The flagship model of our products are focused on customers who use digital content, which use modern formats and channels of information consumption. [/signoff]

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Two years down the road and these two major phone makers don’t have FM Radios in their these smartphones. For Apple it has been a no-show from day one, but at the end of the day the unanswered question still needs a response. Is FM Radio on a Smartphone still a Must have Feature?

I was looking through the FM Radio Android Apps that could substitute the inbuilt FM radio on my phone, but I was hard pressed to get anything of good quality. The best I came up with was TuneIn Radio Pro that I often use to listen to “outside countries” Radio Stations and the Radio Uganda App. Both of which had the same 20 Ugandan radio stations some of which are none functional and I rarely listen to them. I was surprised that, stations like Sanyu FM and KFM were nowhere to be seen (guys get up with the times, we are now in the digital age get working Internet Radio URLs for these app makers to add you to these apps) but that’s a story for another day. I asked myself if I were to make a switch to a Galaxy phone or an iPhone, how would I handle my early morning FM Radio cravings? Especially with the price tag of data streaming these apps present.


At Google I/O this year, the company Launched its future plans for low-end phones, under the Android One umbrella and unlike its Nexus line of devices Android One’s Key features was FM Radio support. In Africa, India and other developing nations I can speak with authority that this is a big deal feature. In countries like the US this is not a top of the list feature. Just the other day I was speaking to a relative of mine in the States and she was lamenting how her phone doesn’t have an FM Radio. If you think your mobile network rips you off here, that’s nothing compared to the US carriers that go as far as asking manufactures to eliminate the FM Radio feature from their smartphones to leave people stream Radio on apps like Spotify with their mobile data as their only choice to consume that content on a phone. I think carriers there are actively downplaying such features to allow users hit their data caps quickly.


FM Radio in my smartphone is a handy gap filler and in a nerdy way its a small feature I always brag about with my iPhone and Galaxy s4 and s5 carrying friends. I get to evaluate the prowess of my phone manufacturer HTC of-course (No ad inserted). The one thing that even the phones that have FM radios still  lack is HD FM radios. Of course in countries like ours this has to start with the regulators like UCC. HD Radio (High Definition) radio exists and there are a lot of terrestrial units that you can even buy one for your car but I have never heard of a phone that supports this. HDR just like the digital TV (migration loop that we seem to be stuck in), will enable us have more radio stations and the quality is just amazing as expected anything that has the HD moniker on it.


To have or not to have an FM Radio on an Android phone has always been an interesting debate at least for me. And here is why. (Nerd cap on) Most of time the reason we get FM Radio on our phones is because we have a GPS (Global Positioning System) chip that supports it, which at first is kind of weird. Why would your GPS chip give you FM Radio support? It turns out that in Europe and other parts across Asia, one of the benefits that you can get by driving down the road their emergency services have FM transmitters that are low power and highly directional in their cars. So if you have somebody pull over the side of the road due to an accident or traffic stop or any kind of detour ahead, you can transmit down the road that you have this emergency coming up and give people who are around the corner especially those coming at high speeds, some kind of heads up of what lies ahead. Its more like a smartphone version of crowd sourced traffic apps.

Why I brought this up is that when manufacturers are integrating GPS into their handsets it makes sense to have a reception of this type of data coming to you. So if you are driving down the road you can see potential problems ahead  and that’s where this GPS information into the FM Radio signal comes in handy and you can see exactly where the incident is located.


In Africa at least here in Uganda we don’t have the above mentioned service, and we should in my opinion and thats why we are getting some of the FM capabilities  in our phones because people are buying chips in mass for GPSes. So why not just have an FM tuner app built-in the phone? So there is surely no reason why these guys cannot just incorporate FM radios in their phones and life moves on. Is FM Radio important in a smartphone? With a chip that costs less than $1 to incorporate, the answer is a clear yes especially here in the emerging markets.