Unlocking the trapped FM receiver in your smart phone

RadioDialWhile Norway prepares to shut down FM, one group–the National Association of Broadcasters–is trying to unlock FM receivers in smart phones; receivers built into smart phones, but not allowed to be activated.

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Benn, for sharing this report from NPR’s All Tech Considered:

UPDATE: KQED posts this tutorial on activating your FM receiver chip by contacting your mobile phone provider.

Spread the radio love

9 thoughts on “Unlocking the trapped FM receiver in your smart phone

    1. Thomas Post author

      Sorry, didn’t mean for it to sound deceptive (simply shortened the title from a previous longer version!).

      My Moto X (2nd Gen) and every Moto I’ve used has FM built-in and even comes with an app (you have to dig through the pre-installed apps to find it). The Android devices that have a truly locked-down FM receiver, though, require rooting. You might google the model of your phone and “unlock FM receiver” to find instructions on doing this. I have a Droid 3 buried somewhere in my house; I might try to find it, root it and give it a go just to see how it works.


      1. Tomas

        Unfortunately, devices with a truly locked-down FM receiver has the antenna grounded, so no amount of rooting will help.

          1. Tomas

            Otherwise the antenna pin is connected to the headset connector (unless the mobile phone has an internal FM antenna which is rare, but the Lenovo S920 that I gave to my mom has it).

  1. Matt

    That nextradio app is horrible! Someone really needs to write an open source/non-commercial one.

    It treats radio like another streaming app, so my display was full of flashy icons of radio stations I couldn’t receive and advertising. I went to the basic interface, and the only thing it did was scan. It didn’t stop on any stations even though I could hear them as they passed by, and wouldn’t stop on any of them no matter what button I pressed. I could hear it still scanning after I left the app!

    Chock full of ads, bad interface, and buggy software. Uninstalled.

  2. Tomas

    There are two problems described here:

    1) People only listening to Spotify or their iTunes-list, only watching Netflix, listening to podcasts reassuring them of their current views etc. These people will be less informed of the rest of the world and don’t find new styles of music they didn’t know they liked etc.

    They are also completely helpless if the mobile data network is down and they can’t access Facebook, Twitter etc. They don’t have a battery powered radio (or any radio probably) and if they had they wouldn’t know what to listen to in case of an emergency.

    2) US operators paying mobile phone manufacturers to disable the already built-in FM radio.

    There is an easy solution: vote with your wallet and don’t buy that iPhone or Galaxy S6! There are many models with FM-radio even from Samsung (they only disabled it on flagship phones they are selling to operators). No Sony phones have FM-radio disabled. LG phones aimed at markets outside USA also have FM-radio enabled.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.