What does it mean when NextRadio adds another supported device or wireless carrier?

You’ve probably heard us talking about the latest and greatest “supported devices,” but maybe you’re confused about what “supported” means, exactly. Or maybe you’ve heard us announce that NextRadio support is coming soon to your wireless carrier, but you’re not sure what that means for you and your current device.

Why does NextRadio have to be so exclusive to begin with? Shouldn’t we all have access to free FM radio on our phones if we want it? We should! And we’re working on that. But first, let’s talk a little more about what’s required for NextRadio to work on your phone.

It all begins with the FM chip inside your smartphone. Believe it or not, the vast majority of phones sold today already have a one built in! It comes bundled in the stack of chips that includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The FM chip allows you to listen to free radio by using your headphones as an antenna to receive local radio frequencies. The audio comes directly from the chip, so you don’t need to use the Internet to stream audio like all the other radio and music apps out there. Using the chip saves lots of data and battery life while delivering better audio quality, and that’s awesome!

So, if most phones have an FM chip, why do some work with NextRadio and others don’t? It comes down to 3 basic requirements:
  1. The phone manufacturer (like Apple, Samsung, LG, or HTC) has to connect the FM chip to the headphone jack inside the phone so that the headphones (which act as the antenna) can provide reception to the chip.
  2. The wireless carrier (like Sprint, AT&T, or T-Mobile) has to give permission to access the FM chip.
  3. The manufacturer must install a small software library that allows applications like NextRadio to control the chip – turning it on or off, or tuning to a specific radio station frequency, for example.

In most cases, the requirements listed above have to be completed before a new phone ships. NextRadio can be compatible with any device, as long as the manufacturer and wireless carrier have agreed to make FM accessible. Seems straightforward, right? But not all devices with an FM chip meet all the requirements, and that (unfortunately) means no access to NextRadio. We work hard to encourage wireless carrier s and manufacturers to provide the option of FM listening on their devices and have gained a lot of support from both sides over the last couple of years, starting with Sprint in the fall of 2013. We will continue to push to make FM radio a standard feature on all future devices!

Now that you understand the basic requirements to get NextRadio onto your phone, let’s cover some questions we often get when we announce support for a new device or wireless carrier:

1. Will my smartphone suddenly be compatible with NextRadio now that my wireless carrier is supported?

In most cases, the answer is (unfortunately) no. One of the requirements listed above is the small software library used to control the FM chip, and that can only be added to your phone in a system update. And in some cases, the manufacturer will not have connected the FM chip to the headphone jack. Most wireless carrier s are able to support new devices moving forward but are not able to retroactively update a device to make it NextRadio compatible.

However, there are some smartphones that work across all wireless carrier s and already meet the 3 requirements, so be sure to check our supported devices page.

2. How will I know if my smartphone has the FM chip turned on?

Check our list of supported devices! We always keep it up to date. If it’s a new device on one of our supported wireless carrier s, there’s a very good chance that all 3 requirements are in place and you’re ready to start listening with NextRadio!

3. You said my wireless carrier is coming “soon.” What does that mean? How soon?

We know you’re excited! Trust us, we are too. Typically, once a wireless carrier says yes to enable the FM chip on devices sold by them, it takes a year to implement all the required steps. Continue to check our supported device page to ensure your next device purchase has the FM chip enabled.

4. What if I purchase a new device from a supported wireless carrier?

You’ve got the golden ticket! Once we have partnered with a wireless carrier, most new Android devices released by that wireless carrier will be compatible with NextRadio. Maybe it’s time to take a look at the latest models!

5. What if I don’t see my phone or carrier on the supported devices page?

Check out www.freeradioonmyphone.org to let your wireless provider know that you want the FM chip activated.

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