Radio’s been around since the 19th century. It’s a relatively simple technology and yet FM tuners aren’t built into all smartphones. Yes, there are radio apps, but with data caps, should all phones have built-in radio?
One of the joys of a smartphone is that you get lots of functions in one device, but the lack of a built-in FM tuner on many high profile smartphones has been something of a recent revelation to me. I’d taken radio as a given.
I listen to quite a lot of radio. I’d listen daily on my phone’s FM tuner if my commute wasn’t mostly underground. That being the case, I don’t use it often, but it’s handy to have when I want it.
FM on smartphones
My phone’s old by current standards (and something of an embarrassment given what I do for a living), so I felt a certain smugness when my iPhone-toting companions had to rely on my phone’s FM tuner for radio commentary as we took in the action at last week’s Superbikes. It’s times like that I wouldn’t want to be without it.
iPhones and flagship Samsung handsets like the S4 and S5, to name a few, don’t have FM radio built-in. You can download radio apps, but streaming from an app will chip away at your 3G or 4G data allowance and, as my iPhone-owning friend found, they don’t always work.
I’ll admit that built-in FM doesn’t make my phone the complete package. As the 2012 Olympics and Wimbledon proved, sports coverage out and about is also on my wish list. The headphones act as an aerial for FM, but it isn’t long enough to make AM reception a possibility for a phone, so no Radio 5 Live without heading down the internet radio/app route.
What about DAB on smartphones?
The BBC estimates that a 60-minute iPlayer radio stream could use up to 60MB of data. By that estimation, you’d only get around four hours of listening before reaching a monthly 250MB data limit.
But, as I discovered while trying to keep up with Andy Murray’s progress last year, app listening isn’t always a seamless experience. A flakey connection can leave you without audio mid-game and taking minutes to reconnect, which can be more than a little frustrating.
An alternative would be for DAB chips to make an appearance in phones. Some would argue that DAB has reception issues of its own in some areas, but coverage has been fairly good in my experience. The chips aren’t that expensive and they might allow us to listen to all of Andy Murray’s route to Wimbledon victory without maxing out data allowances before he even reaches the third round.
Still, I do wonder whether there’s really a wide call for radio in phones. I don’t use mine often, but it’s definitely something I’ll take into consideration when choosing my next phone. I resent having to carry yet another device just to get coverage. What about you?
Should all smartphones come with radio?
Yes - both FM and DAB radio (34%, 351 Votes)
No - I don't listen to radio on my phone (30%, 318 Votes)
Yes - FM radio (17%, 180 Votes)
Yes - DAB radio (13%, 138 Votes)
No - radio apps are fine for me (6%, 60 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,047