Fresh from its celebration over AT&T’s commitment to ask its phone builders to activate internal FM reception chips, Emmis-owned NextRadio campaigned for T-Mobile to do the same. Today CEO John Legere agreed.
“Hey @NextRadioApp — We heard you! We’re saying yes to FM chip and will push our OEM partners to support! #sayyestoFMchip” –John Legere, CEO, T-Mobile
Most smartphones have FM reception built into their circuitry, but the chips are inactive and useless. Sprint partners with NextRadio with several activated-chip models. AT&T got on board for late 2015 and 2016, and now T-Mobile. This is good momentum for NextRadio, and the stations which participate with Tagstation, the back end of the app which turns radio reception into an enhanced interactive experience.
It certainly makes sense for phones to receive FM — there is no reason not to activate those chips. However, even when activation is added to the carrier’s specification sheet, the decision remains with the manufacturer. So this momentum has an uphill climb before it meaningfully benefits radio — the chips have actually get activated; the phones have to be marketed with that feature; users have to download NextRadio and want to use it.
In the background is the usability fact that FM radio is easily available on any iOS or Android phone through many paths. But all those paths chew through data in the customer’s phone plan — except, ironically, T-Mobile, which allows unlimited audio streaming through many selected platforms. In other cases, saving data is one of NextRadio’s selling points.