Android Central

Android Central @ CES

FM radio may not be top of the shopping list when shopping for a new smartphone, but nevertheless it's a feature many want to have. Sprint is jumping into the FM radio space having today announced a preliminary agreement with the American radio industry. It will enable Sprint customers to listen to local FM radio content on a range of their new smartphones starting later this year. 

All this is made possible by what Sprint refers to as NextRadio, which it also says will offer a range of interactive listener features not currently available -- although what those are remains a mystery. The announcement marks the first time a U.S. carrier will offer FM radio across a whole range of its devices. Demonstrations of NextRadio are taking place this week at CES in Las Vegas. The full press release can be found after the break. 

Sprint customers to enjoy local FM radio on smartphones via FM radio chip

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (BUSINESS WIRE), January 08, 2013 - Sprint (NYSE:S) today announced a preliminary arrangement with representatives of the American radio industry that will enable Sprint customers to listen to local FM radio stations from a broad spectrum of radio companies and aggregators on select Android and Windows smartphones during the next three years. FM radio could be delivered through the NextRadio tuner application or other radio apps or services.

This announcement marks the first time a U.S. wireless carrier would offer the ability to access local FM radio on a broad array of its devices. Consumers today can listen to radio on smartphones by streaming over the Internet. As part of this plan, Sprint customers could use their smartphones and the NextRadio tuner to listen to local FM radio stations.

With the NextRadio tuner – expected to be available later in 2013 – Sprint customers would enjoy a wide range of interactive listener features not available today and would have the availability of local FM radio at their fingertips to access all forms of broadcast information. Demonstrations of NextRadio will be offered at booth 9033 in the Central hall during CES.

Fared Adib, senior vice president, product development and operations at Sprint, stated, “We look forward to bringing Sprint customers another entertainment choice through NextRadio. This new, easy-to-use service adds another dimension to the versatility of our wide array of smartphones and will deliver a new avenue for thousands of local radio stations across the country to reach our customers.”

Gordon Smith, president of the National Association of Broadcasters, said, “This opportunity combines the strengths of the Sprint network with the impact of America’s radio stations. It is the type of business-to-business partnership that recognizes the unique strengths of the wireless networks and the radio industry and provides services that are so important to the American people.”

Bob Pittman, CEO of Clear Channel, noted, “This is a great development for the radio industry, one which will help us bring the content and services that only radio can provide to the wireless system. It's an important benefit for consumers across America, and we are pleased to participate in this effort.”

Jeff Smulyan, CEO of Emmis Communications, who acted as principal negotiator for the radio industry, added, “Today is a remarkable day for our industry. I am gratified by the unity I have seen in our industry. It seems every broadcaster I know has supported this effort, and I am grateful to the tireless efforts of industry leaders, from the largest companies to the owners of the smallest stations … all of whom have helped us reach this agreement. While there is much work to be done, today is a critical first step.”


Reader comments

Sprint to introduce local FM Radio on selected smartphones later in the year


there's a difference between an app that streams FM raduo and task FM radio. One requires an internet connection.. the FM would be good for Verizon people who have data caps though.. more useful than for Sprint users.

The HTC Evo 4G LTE has an FM radio chip and tuner app. I fail to see how this is anything newsworthy, really.


My last three phones have all had FM radio and I have used the feature exactly zero times.


Please Sprint, stop distracting yourself from your LTE rollout.

No, +1 to you sir, lololol!

I remember having this feature on a walkman I an 8 year old. #mindblown

As does the entire HTC One X/V/X/XL line.

Welcome to the party Sprint, the Pizza is all gone, but there's some stale beer in the pitcher over there.

True, FM chips used to be popular in Smartphones, but they disappeared because no one used them and no one cared when they went away, Typical Sprint, throwing away money on useless ideas.

The Galaxy Note 2 does not have any FM Radio capabilities. I don't like having a phone that won't tune into any FM frequency that the TV audio is broadcast on while at the Gym. If this is the type of FM radio that is being offered. I'm interested.

I find this interesting but am confused: is this saying you'd be able to get FM directly from the FM signal?
How ever it works, would it count as "data" usage?

The main appeal for me is that some radio content is blacked out over internet streaming feeds - specifically local broadcasts of sports events. I wonder if this would get around that...

No it doesn't count as data. Its essentially a transistor radio in your pocket that you can listen to with earbuds and tune in any local station.

It uses the earbuds as an antenna, and it uses virtually zero power. Some feature RDS so it tells you the name of the songs that are playing.

Instead of wasting resources on this crap why don't they put them to better use such as more rapid LTE deployment. There is hardly any radio stations I can't get with tunein and iheart. Add in that this will just make more delays and issues with firmware updates because manufacturers will have another chip to worry about coding for.

Calm down guys, it costs sprint almost a whole 25 cents to add this to your phone and all the distraction they have to deal with is checking a box on an order form when they buy half a million phones.

(In fact disabling this would probably cost them more money, since its built into the chipset already in the phone).

I think Sprint is big enough to multi-task.

TuneIn Radio is over the internet.
It requires an internet connection and uses your data allotment.
Since Sprint offers unlimited data this is a way to get some listeners off the network when they simply want to listen to local radio.
Win-Win for everyone.

The big lie in their press release:

"This announcement marks the first time a U.S. wireless carrier would offer the ability to access local FM radio on a broad array of its devices. "

At least half the Motorola and almost all the HTC, and a boat load of Samsungs have FM Radio tuners built in. I'm pretty sure at least one other carrier sells such phones.

These FM radios are provided by the phone manufacturer.
Sprint will be offering FM radio on it's smartphones even when not offered by manufacturer.

If true, this essentially can't be done without a data connection.

So they are right back to TuneIn Radio.

So that makes it an even dumber announcement.

When you Google around a little bit, you find THIS which seems suggest they will be putting an App on the phones that can use local FM radio waves AND will use internet radio. It will show both options all in a single app.

It seems like a very minor improvement, hardly worth the hype.


I think you are misinterpreting the article.
This is an over the air application and does not require an internet connection.

Here is a couple of key segments of the article:

"NextRadio™ is being marketed to the wireless industry as an app that represents the best OVER-THE-AIR radio listening experience on the smartphone. The product, specific to local FM and HD Radio, allows consumers to listen to local radio WITHOUT USING THEIR DATA PLAN for pure internet streaming."

" Brenner also pointed out that with NextRadio™, you can use your phone for news and information during times of emergency. Hurricane Sandy is the most recent example of FM radio being a lifeline to citizens when other communication networks suffer disaster related outages."

The following statement mentions leveraging the data connection for OTHER FEATURES like ads but is not required for the over the air FM broadcast.

“NextRadio™ leverages the efficiency and scalability of broadcast radio ENHANCED by the phone’s data channel to deliver an interactive artist and ad experience,” said Paul Brenner, Chief Technology Officer with Emmis Communications. “With other features like enhanced synchronous ad types including SMS integration and couponing, song tagging capabilities, and social integration, NextRadio™ stands out as a truly innovative mobile experience.”

This is great. Because since their molasses 3G is so slow, I may be able to listen to music instead of my phone draining the battery looking for signal...

Oh, Sprint. How in the world do you plan to do this when many of your customers still can't get a decent 3G signal. Don't you think you need to fix the transmission on the old station wagon before you add shiny new rims? Are we there yet?

Holy Crap Batman! Sprint working on local FM radios in select smart phones and their 4G network where I live in Lafayette, IN is only 700Kbps faster than Verizon's 3G and Sprint's 3G is rendered useless when you get speeds of 7-30Kbps. This company is on its away to bankruptcy. In 16 months, I am taking my 5 lines that are currently with Sprint to some type of GSM pre-paid service.


Please someone tell me Sprint did not really just announce they are going to support FM Radio on some phones. Perhaps they are wishing that customers would start to listen to FM radio rather than use the phone for voice and data thus improving Sprint's reputation :)

My gosh Sprint. I get excited for half a second seeing a headline with "Sprint" in it..but looks like this was a waste of my time. Freaking FM radio on devices. Sounds like just another bloat app to me. I mean sure I admit sometimes I stream certain radio stations when I am in the gym, so this could probably be a better solution than using my horrible data. But Christ, I was hoping to see some LTE news or something. Update on improvements and all that jazz.

I get why this is newsworthy to some degree, and I'm happy that it's being implemented.

However, in 2013, wouldn't HD Radio be a more intriguing proposition?

Having the support of a cellular carrier could help this underutilized technology take off. Although HD Radio has 84% coverage in the US with over 1900 stations on-air[1], many consumers aren't even aware of it as an option.

I can see how terrestrial radio intrigues cellular companies, as it is a clean cop-out for the many streaming apps they clearly despise. But why not give us a technology that can at least provide a digital option and decent bitrates? (HD Radio being capable of up to 300kbps [1])

No consideration of any technical limitations here. I do not have knowledge of an HD Radio tuner which is integrated into a mobile device at this time, but it would seem trivial considering the hardware available. The biggest challenge has seemingly been overcome with the integration of the FM radio, leaving only decoding of the digital signal for HD Radio compatibility. But again, I'm no expert on HD Radio either.

Just a thought.

[1] Data sloppily referenced:

EDIT: Evidently, HD Radio on smartphones hasn't gone over well thus far:

What you all don't seem to get is that this isn't for Sprint or its customers. It's to keep the radio industry and its lobbyists off Sprint's back.

Sprint has to do this because their 3G is so worthless that other music streaming services don't work...

Maybe the gain for Sprint is decreased data usage, which allows them to keep unlimited data, unlike the other carriers who limit or throttle? I have a Motorola Photon 4g with FM radio, but have used it twice in two years. Maybe others would use it more often.