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Your Phone Has an FM Chip. So Why Can’t You Listen to the Radio? (wired.com)
263 points by prostoalex on July 12, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 321 comments

I just bought an internet radio for my stereo (yes, I'm that old, I have a stereo). I was surprised to discover it also had a wire in the box that turned out to be an FM antenna. I thought with internet radio, who needs an FM tuner? (all the local stations have streaming URLs)

Turns out I actually like it. It's handy when the internet fails, or when you're nearing data caps, or just want to run it all day without interfering with download speeds, or you don't want the NSA to know you like disco music (Edit: oh.. crap!).

I suppose long term FM is dead, but meanwhile it has its uses.

It's funny, I really like listening to a number of local stations for the variety of music I get introduced to; but somehow, the fact that there is a real person curating it makes me enjoy it. Listening to spotify, it doesn't do it for me. Something about having someone come on, make a little human conversation, that's part of the experience for me. Algorithms don't cut it.

It's strange to me to read a positive comment about terrestrial radio broadcast amid so many complaints about ad blocking on the web. I stopped listening to radio many years ago and now I have an irrational resentment when I hear car stereos blasting pointless, noisy ads at traffic stops. I always wonder what allows people to mentally tune them out rather than decreasing the volume until music resumes.

This is in no way pointed at you; just something that struck me while browsing comments.

It really depends what country you're in. In the UK, by far the most-listened-to FM stations are from the BBC, which are of course ad-free.

Radio 1 (for younger people) and Radio 6 (for less-young people) are great places to listen to new music. And you can stream them over the web, for free, even if you're not British:


When the BBC have such a wide range of music stations I can never comprehend why commercial radio is still a thing, and still so popular here. I'm probably not the target market though, since I also get irritated at the way all radio stations have about 15 minutes of music per hour, and the rest is filler from some smug DJ pretending to be your friend, and people calling in because they've got no one better to talk to about their deathly dull morning.

I can't speak for the UK market, but in the US, public radio is biased left. I'm biased right, so it annoys me, but I love the stuff that isn't political, like Click'n'Clack (did that come back or is it being rebroadcast?).

Commercial Radio has a non-government business benefactor, and so they cover what is of interest to them. Public Radio has government as it's benefactor, and so they cover their interests. Now it's not necessarily blatant, but whoever pays your bills, you have a self interest in seeing them in a positive light. If you are unable to do so, I'm sure you would move on to someone who you can see in a positive light. Bit of selection bias going on there, which is another slant maker.

I am fine with NPR, for example, having a bias to the left, but I wish they would stop pretending they didn't. Recognizing self bias is incredibly difficult, so it's not surprising when people don't see their own. This difficulty is as old as the bible (cf Matthew 7:3), and probably as old as thinking (I haven't read Plato or Aristotle but I would be surprised if they didn't talk about it.)

I have the same problem with Fox news, and really all the major news networks pretending to be unbiased, stating opinions as fact. I cut the cord a long time ago.

The more certain you are that you understand something, the less likely you are to examine it in depth. Do yourself a favor today, pick one of your beliefs, and take some time to examine why you believe it. Seek out some opposing positions, see if there is something to learn from them.

Do your best to find something other than "common sense" as the basis for believing what you believe.

There are no new episodes of Car Talk being recorded since the brothers both retired and one of them is dead.

That's sad. Now that you brought it up I think I remember hearing about one of the brothers dying. They were so much fun to listen to, really made me smile.

Id say both fox and NPR are unbiased. Bias is pretty well defined by comparison to the audience, unless you're clakmjng theres some magical neutral, but theres no way to define such a thing!

so, fox's bias is the same as its audience, and NPR's with theirs, leaving no apparent bias for either of them.

There's constant talk about the BBC's bias, but looking at the numbers they get approximately the same number of complaints of bias to the left and right, which probably means they're doing a pretty good job of avoiding it.

> This difficulty is as old as the bible (cf Matthew 7:3), and probably as old as thinking (I haven't read Plato or Aristotle but I would be surprised if they didn't talk about it.)

I like to imagine that some thinking took place before Plato.

What is stopping you?

I think it's from commuting here in the US. A lot of people commuting here in Southern California are older driving junk cars with no features. But they always have FM radio.

"Older junk cars" almost always have a single- or double-DIN form for their radios, and aftermarket radios are available for ~$50, so it's not like they can't get other forms of audio.

Even if you only have to buy a plug-n-play harness and insert a coat hanger into a hole to get the old radio out DIYing something like that scares most people and a $50 radio install will probably cost $50 or more before the200% markup on the adapter harness the shop bought on Amazon for $5-$15. Just figuring out how to use typical automotive connectors is a major task for someone who's never done it.

It's a low priority for most people, costs more than you'd think if you don't DIY. OEM radios tend to have pretty good ergonomics anyway.

Most early 2000s and older stuff has a cassette deck anyway so a $3 adapter lets you plug in your phone.

> OEM radios tend to have pretty good ergonomics anyway.

I'm appalled at the UI for radios these days. Obviously feature overload has a lot to do with it; I wish someone would make opinionated car stereos like Apple does for other consumer tech. "You don't want this feature because the tradeoff is more complexity."

I'd rather have, "We know some of you want this feature so we spent considerable time giving it to you without the complexity."

That's obviously better but often not possible when taking into account the constraints of a single DIN.

If a single DIN radio has a pop-out screen, it isn't constrained any more than a double DIN, and if it doesn't have one, the amount of possible complexity is rather limited.

> ...the amount of possible complexity is rather limited

Relative to what a person can handle while driving, there's far more potential complexity, and as with nearly all things electronic, spec sheets/feature lists often trump common sense limitations.

A call center rents space where I work, by definition knowing their rate of pay, they're all poor. Their cars might have unrepaired crash damage, or mufflers held on my baling wire, but they have nice rims and nicer car stereos than my own.

Its a cheap extra luxury at the poor person level. Much like very expensive tennis shoes are a thing in their culture.

I'd probably use the FM radio in my phone more if it could receive BBC Radio 6Music but that channel is only available on DAB. I'm not aware of any phones with DAB radios.

One came out in Australia recently - http://www.lg.com/au/smartphones/lg-LGK520K-stylus-dab-plus-.... I don't know if I'd bother as DAB only works for me in metro areas with really good signal.

Its a shame they don't have TV tuners, I as it's also a good way to get those radio channels.

DVB-T copes very badly with a moving receiver, unfortunately.

Stuart Maconie's Freak and Freakier zones are top radio. You'd never get such a thing on commercial radio, and we almost lost it back in 2010.

Not the case (in the US) for all frequencies; 88.1 MHz - 90.9 MHz is reserved for noncommercial educational radio stations. (This is where you'll find NPR, college radio, etc.)

See here for more details: https://www.fcc.gov/media/radio/how-to-apply#NCE

But as public funding has dried up, they increasingly insert "brought to you by ..." and/or pledge drives, which are nearly as annoying as conventional advertising (even though I understand they have little choice).

In nearly any decent city in the US, there are a few great college and/or community radio stations. It disappoints me that the wide of majority of HN has stayed unaware of their existence, or does not appreciate the greatness that a experimental, imperfect, human-curated radio station can achieve.

Agreed. You don't realize how invasive radio and TV advertising is until you don't have it.

To be honest, I haven't heard a radio ad or seen a TV ad in almost 4 years.

And I use radio daily, and watch some TV every now and then.

But I only listen to N-Joy (part of the German public broadcaster NDR).

Seriously, foundation-funded and tax-funded media are probably the best at the moment, considering how ad-ridden and biased the private media are becoming.

The only ads I see now are billboards, which leads to weird distortions in what products, cars, TV Shows, etc. I am aware of.

Maybe not for everyone, but my local Christian station doesn't have ads.


Thanks, I'll try it

what's more, it's remarkably annoying, being subjected to adverts on someone else’s TV is absolutely infuriating.

I listen to music on the radio. I have 5 stations I switch between on my commute, and usually at least one is playing music. As soon as it goes to talking, I quickly thumb through (using a steering wheel control) to a new station. I never hit ads (several stations do long periods of continuous songs during my commute hours too which makes it easier).

I quite like radio paradise. Curated (not much talking though) and ad-free. Supported by listener payments.

They have a beta test for their new web player: https://www8.radioparadise.com

I only listen to KQED/NPR on the radio and donate to them as well. Ad-free, and really high quality content. I actually look forward to a lot of their programs in the morning.

I like NPR, too, but you can't really call them ad-free unless you buy into their narrow definition of what constitutes an ad.

Not ad-free, but the ads are not intrusive.

Pledge week is still annoying of course.

Not to mention the decline of the vocal quality, too. God, those horrible vocal fries are pervasive now. (And no, it's not just the young or just the women.)

If someone comes out with AdBlocker 'plugin' for my in car radio, I am sold ... Cannot stand radio ads.

I listen to KEXP (Seattle) all the time, all sort of different music with no ads.

> somehow, the fact that there is a real person curating it makes me enjoy it.

I do this, too, especially when I'm up late at night for my work schedule. Since I'm up well after most channels in the US go to "Paid Programming," I like having international news channels as background noise so I pay for Sling TV. There's something nice, for me, knowing that someone else is awake at the same time.

On the other hand, I really love Spotify in my "more awake" moments. It's grand, especially on my bus commute to work, to have a huge cloud jukebox. But, in the quiet stillness of the dark at 1am, live TV or radio is soothing.

>the fact that there is a real person curating it makes me enjoy it.

You're lucky, I suppose. Around here every radio station is owned by the same media conglomerate, so we have 4 or 5 stations all playing the same generic top 40 music (with a slight variance by genre). Outside of the CBC, terrestrial radio, for the most part, sucks.

Yeah, around here commercial radio means ClearChannel, which means it's run by robots.

Of course there is satellite radio, but it turns out that's all ClearChannel too so no improvement.

All of the locally owned/operated radio stations were bought out many years ago. It's just cheaper to have programming piped in from the corporate headquarters instead of hiring local DJs.

The only terrestrial radio I listen to now is NPR, and even they have some issues.

Yeah, I think I am. When I'm cooking some elaborate meal, I'll put on the jazz station. I don't enjoy every song, but I do like feeling that sense of connection to the guy in the booth several miles away. It's a sense of intimacy.

But I can also totally see how, if you really had nothing but 4 or 5 clearchannel stations, that radio would have nothing for you.

Doesn't the Apple Music radio, Beats 1 or what was it, have human-curated streams too?

Yes, and full on shows. I've listened to Elton John's show a few times. Amazingly broad and eclectic music and more eye opening than I'd have expected - he seems to like a bit of everything.

"Elton John has another habit, a habit he has had since he was an adolescent. Every new-release day, he goes shopping for records. If in England, he does this on Mondays at an HMV in London. In the United States, it's on Tuesdays and usually at a Tower Records in Atlanta. He buys not just every new release but, if he thinks it will be a record he'll like, a copy for every house." http://www.eltonjohnitaly.com/theusual-articolo.html

Tower Records is long gone (in the US), but Elton John was interviewed for the Tower Records documentary "All Things Must Pass". He states that he probably purchased more records there than anybody else (forget the exact quote). Judging by his enthusiasm, I believe him.

It does. That's probably the single Apple Music feature that makes me use it over Spotify (although Spotify still has me as a customer too because of discover weekly). I don't know why but like the parent said, a bit of chit chat about the songs they're playing and short phone calls with artists before a track debut make it a much more enjoyable listening experience than putting on, for example, a Spotify radio station.

There are some human-curated internet radios as well. I enjoy soma.fm.

I do have a had time making my own playlists and the auto generated ones always seem to miss the mark. Going off to Google playlists now maybe someone else has already made the right ones. KIBM Watson radio DJ might be interesting.

> I suppose long term FM is dead, but meanwhile it has its uses.

If true, this is really unfortunate. I've written about this before, but FM is a really great technology, and in a lot of ways it's only suffering because of the content. The sound quality of digital "equivalents" (XM Radio, HD Radio, Internet Radio, etc.) doesn't even come close to a clear FM station.

Not to mention there are millions of vintage radios that still work perfectly today with this technology.

For being invented in 1933 it's pretty amazing.

HD Radio really grinds my gears. They hijacked the HD acronym for marketing: it stands for Hybrid Digital. As you mention the quality is not comparable when you have a strong analog FM signal.

On top of that the encoding is proprietary and one company holds the IP for the codecs. I can't believe the FCC allowed it to become a "standard".

It's only saving grace is that works alongside existing FM without much intrusion into the way FM already works.

As an aside, I got a free SiriusXM trial with my new car, and the sound quality is terrible compared to FM. I was honestly reminded of the MP3s I got from Kazaa and burned to a CD in 2003, you can hear the aggressive compression.

It's why I dumped Sirius a while back. When it started, Sirius had really good quality. IIRC, I'd put it up there with CDs. As they added more and more, the quality just kept going down and down. Between the nosedive in quality and the increasing number of ads on non-music channels, I didn't see $12/month in value. IOW, satellite radio went through the exact same cycle as cable TV.

It seems like it really varies between channels, especially between talk and music but also within categories. I assume they allocate more bandwidth to the more popular/lucrative channels. I find the quality to be fine on the ones I listen to (e.g. SiriusXMU).

I have knowledge of the bitrate at which Sirius transmits, and while it varies by station, 32/kbs is (or was) typical.

When using a phone, the FM receiver also uses considerably less battery than streaming mobile data.

> It's handy when the internet fails, or when you're nearing data caps, or just want to run it all day without interfering with download speeds

So basically it's useful if you have really shitty internet.

I suppose. There's a long chain of things that can go wrong with the intertoobs. My switch could die (it has), the router could die (it has) the cable modem could die (it has), the comcast street equipment on my block could fail (it has) trees could fall on the wires (happens regularly).

I haven't had an outage in years. I've never had a switch or any network equipment die on me either. We also bury our cables here (everything except the high-voltage power distribution network) so there is no risk of trees falling on wires.

Seriously, why would you run cables on poles, that seems super fragile to me.

Well, lucky you. For the rest of the world though, Internet isn't a thing to be taken for granted. Sure it works 99% of the time, but it's not like electricity which work 99.999999% of the time, and then you have workarounds like batteries and gas tanks and stuff.

And by "rest of the world" I don't mean third world countries or something. AFAIK Internet infrastructure in the US sucks hard compared to Europe, and here in Europe the reliability of the Internet is still not good enough feel like it's electricity.

Trees cut the lines here about 1 to 4 times a year. The longest outage was 10 days, the shortest was about 3 hours. Most everyone in my neighborhood eventually buys a generator.

The power company told me it costs $15,000 per span to bury the wires. They find it cheaper to send a repair crew out to rebuild the wires regularly.

> Trees cut the lines here about 1 to 4 times a year.

It's that bad ? Why don't they just bury the cables like we do here ? Maybe the initial costs are a bit higher but it can't be cheap to have to send someone out to fix the cables that often.

> Why don't they just bury the cables like we do here ?

In rural areas it's just not economically feasible to bury cables. Sure, some cables are buried and follow the roads between population centres, but they also need to cross fields, go up hills and span the wilderness to get to many places that would take many miles of detours of twisty roads and tracks.

For the power companies and telcos to bury cables where we live they'd need to rip everything up and start again, and even then there's a fairly good chance that some piece of agricultural equipment would rip the cable out of the ground. Burying stuff is hugely expensive.

> Sure it works 99% of the time, but it's not like electricity which work 99.999999% of the time

I can't speak for others, but it certainly is for me.

> and then you have workarounds like batteries and gas tanks and stuff.

And if it fails there is 4G and stuff, it may not be as fast as fiber but it's more than fast enough for basically anything but downloading large files.

To give you a little perspective from a rural part of the US:

I lose power at least one or two times a year. Normally due to a construction/farming accident, but sometimes it's due to a temporary overload. Most of the time the outage isn't more than an hour or so.

Last week when a slew of severe storms came through, I had no satellite TV (water absorbs the signal). Switched to Netflix. Netflix signal went out (I'm guessing there's a microwave link somewhere between my house and the phone company Central Office in the nearest town 10 miles away). Could have been worse: some people were without power for days.

We live on top of a hill and I lose my cell signal just walking across my living room. Would be even worse if we lived at the bottom of the hill. So much for 4G!

But yeah, I still prefer living out here to being back in the city :-)

I have AT&T and to be honest I would rather listen to NPR on the radio rather than streaming/using my data. My data rolls over. So wasting it on something I could get for free anyway doesn't seem fair.

I mostly listen at home so data usage is not an issue. Even on mobile I hardly use the data I get with my plan (5.5GB month and I barely use 500MB) so it doesn't really matter what I use it for.

There's a certain retardedness to streaming a live radio station over the internet when you have an actual radio available and are in the broadcast area of the station.

I'm still using an old stereo, the amps and speakers are still great. Although now I have a Raspberry Pi set up as an internet radio instead of a record deck.

I'm using a HiFiBerry DAC (https://www.hifiberry.com/dacplus) as the built-in analogue audio on the Pi is abysmal. Then MPD (https://www.musicpd.org) for the back-end and ympd (https://www.ympd.org) for a web UI.

Which box did you buy? I wish I could find one that does Internet streams and HD Radio that didn't cost a kidney...

The Grace Digital one. It works, although Apple has ruined me and the user interface on the box is worse than that on a microwave. There's a long list of complaints about it, but there isn't much alternative.

The category is wide open for someone to make one where, say, the remote actually works more than some of the time. :-( I don't know why this is such a hard problem.

Which microwave? I have a hard time imagining ways it could be improved over what I have. Put food in, twist a knob to set time, microwave starts.

You probably own an old microwave, lucky you. Newer models usually have a digital interface with have various buttons - that's probably the non-intuitive interface the OP is referring to.

It's almost brand new, bought it last year. Samsung. IIRC they had models with analog and digital knobs but both function the same way.

I only listen to french public FM (news, culture, politics ... Little to no ads) and I find the "native multiroom support" enjoyable compared to sonos, devialet, pi setups, pulseaudio, airplay, chromecast ...

All it requires is a handful of cheap FM receivers.

FM radio is the only reliable way to listen to broadcasts of local sports.

And in some places AM. I often listen to AM sports talk radio for light hearted entertainment, and when a commercial comes on switch over to a Bloomberg stream. If both are on a long commercial break (like the end/start of an hour), I switch to Google music and rarely switch back. Commercials lose me completely for the rest of my drive.

Australian here, also find it bizarre that this is a problem in the US.

Biggest problem I have in my Android phone requires the head-phones to be plugged in to listen to FM...as it acts as the aerial.

Brazilian here. Also puzzled this is a problem at all.

I've had phones that needed the headphones to be plugged in, which is an annoyance but understandable. The new Moto G 4th Gen works without them so that might be changing.

If your smartphone ships with a stock Android ROM you'll notice that new versions have added the feature of letting FM radio work without headphones plugged in.

Also if you really don't want to have wires around you can buy a jack tap antenna (not sure about the naming, making it up sorry) or.. just plug in the headphones and cut the wires away from the jack (and as a precautionary measure insulate it).

I do not think the issue is with the US, but with iphones. Every Android phone I have owned has always had an FM radio app.

My Nexus 6P has no radio app, and when I just downloaded one (NextRadio) it said my phone didn't have the required software.

When I bought from Verizon I was told it was not possible.

FM is a long wavelength (and even more AM) the antenna would take up some space in your cellphone. They might be able to fit it, but yea... costs...

Many phones just use the headset cable as an antenna.

Read the OP again :)

Oops. that's what I get for commenting before the first coffee...

Broadcast FM radio has a wavelength of around 3m which is much larger than cell frequencies. Broadcast AM actually is much much longer than FM due to its low frequencies. If you take 800khz near the center of the dial, the wave length is about 375 meters.

AM antennas are smaller because they are generally not very good. Most I gave see in cheap radios are wire wound around a ferrite core. That matches the impedance but the loss is high. It's usually ok for AM broadcast though because the power levels are HIGH and there is minimal multipath distortion.

I find it hubris on the point of the device makers. Like, "what? you don't have unlimited streaming everywhere?" As a commuter in the NYC area, streaming is in fact not available consistently everywhere on the ride in... but my fm radio on my ipod never stutters. (Of course, some static here and there...)

And as more information sources move to the terribly named "HD" channels of radio, I worry that my current ipod will start to have even less content available.

When I think of all the features I never use on my expensive phone, having one I want to use already built in but disabled is somewhat frustrating.

Apple isn't activating it because it "might undermine Beats One"? Oh give me a break. You can stream just about any FM station you want with apps like TuneIn Radio.

If Apple didn't want you to have an FM radio, they wouldn't put it on the phone. It's the _carriers_ that oppose it.

I think iMessage proved that Apple could give a damn what the carriers want.

This may be a failing of mine or a regional thing, but what does this comment mean? I read it literally as saying that Apple has done what carriers want and has made iMessage to suit carriers. I suspect that this is the opposite of what is intended though, as iMessage disempowers carriers imho. How does culturestate's comment work?

"Could give a damn" and "couldn't give a damn" can be used as synonyms in American slang. Or it might just be the South.

Thanks, now this says something that squares with what I would expect it to mean. Strange how dropping that very key word leaves the same meaning. Still, English has many strange quirks.

It's super annoying but it has to do with misunderstandings and mispronunciations finding their way into common language. Another terrible one is "I could care less" vs "I couldn't care less." Both mean the same thing in the common language, but if I hear someone say the "could" version, they lose a lot of respect in my eyes.

Languages evolve, and mostly it irritates me. I hate that the English Dictionaries used to be an authoritative source, and are now just a reflection of common usage.

Yet at the same time I recognize the need for languages to evolve as life does not stand still.

Are you also irritated by all the changes that happened before you were born, or is it just the new ones that bug you?

Dictionaries as an authoritative source really just means that they reflect older common usage. It just makes them slow, not somehow better.

So the "Urban Dictionary" should really be called the "Fast Dictionary."

Languages evolve, and mostly it irritates me. I hate that the English Dictionaries used to be an authoritative source, and are now just a reflection of common usage

We should start a club :-)

Dictionaries were never an authoritative (prescriptive) source. They are by their very idea a collection of common usages.

As a Southerner, no, they are not interchangeable.

Annoys me to no end...

It is a bit of colloquial American English where they have dropped the negative but still use the phrase in the same context. It is the same problem with "I could care less" when what the speaker actually means is "I couldn't care less".

If Apple wanted you to have an FM radio, they would enable it. Maybe not on all carriers, but iPhone is available on a bazillion carriers worldwide, and surely they don't all want to disable FM radio. And even if they did, Apple sells unlocked, carrier-neutral phones too.

Again, nearly all FM stations are available on the iPhone. Carriers haven't blocked it. Apple hasn't blocked it. They are there.[1] The entire premise of the article is false.

[1] http://www.igeeksblog.com/best-radio-apps-for-iphone-and-ipa...

"Apps" -- that means streaming data. The point of the article is that FM would work when cellular signals won't. The entire internet is available except when it's not. This article is about receiving FM signals.

Ok, functioning in a disaster is one point the article made. But the premise that Apple is excluding it because of their own streaming services is patently false.

> ... patently false.

You have references?

It's a point of logic. Radio stations are freely available on the iPhone via numerous third party apps, ergo blocking access to radio is not a motivation for disabling the FM chip feature. They would need to block those apps to accomplish that.

At best you could argue they are favoring Beats One by not letting you choose other Internet radio stations in their bundled music app, but that's not about disabling hardware.

Is Beats Radio not a competitor to terrestrial radio? They both aim to provide the same service. They both pay fees to the same record labels.

Far, far more people are more familiar with FM radio than TuneIn.

Disabling the FM chip function doesn't make 3rd party radio apps any less discoverable.

The point is, Apple has a vested interest in making sure you're using TCP/IP to do that streaming, instead of just tuning into a radio signal from space.

The investment in the network of users is so high, and such a massive profit factor, that there is no incentive to flip the FM bit, for the users. Since it will mean less streaming will occur (you're not using TCP/IP when you're listening to FM radio..)

Its Apple, jealously guarding its piece of the OSI-model pie, and us users getting screwed in the process. I, for one, would very much enjoy being able to use my phone for FM radio .. heck, I'd like to use it for local peer-to-peer communications too, but we know how hard-bound the radio is for that purpose ..

I don't follow your logic. The iPhone would receive audio from the station over "a radio signal from space" either way. TCP/IP is just a protocol. What is the "massive profit factor" Apple enjoys from using that protocol?

All the deals Apple made with the cell co's to get their users to suck up the bandwidth, duh. Cellular Data rates being what they are, I fail to see how anyone cannot see the profit motive. If you're listening to Spotify instead of FM radio, you're fulfilling one of the promises Apple made to the cell co's: we will give you users who will use our phones to suck up Cellular Data ..

Can you ELI5 why this is a benefit, please?

Cellular bandwidth is expensive and supplies are finite. You can add more bandwidth, but that generally means building more cell towers etc.

By contrast, a single FM broadcast can support millions of users (within the transmitter's footprint), and you can add millions more listeners for no extra cost.

The mobile phone companies are using Wi-Fi and other means to save cellular bandwidth. Wouldn't it make sense for them to encourage the use of FM to save cellular bandwidth?

Yes, actually, FM is very much the opposite of the Internet, in that you can broadcast as hard as you want, and its up to the recipient to tune in and get the signal. At a mass scale, FM is pretty efficient if you need to get an emergency message out.

TCP/IP, however, requires the active cooperation and participation (and ultimately: control) of each node in between you and the site of interest. It takes mass team-work to make TCP/IP happen; it is automated cooperation at a bit level. Bits travel well, when its all plugged in.

When things are not plugged in, we could still be using FM to receive information/music/entertainment, etc. FM is more resilient to the fragilities of the Internet.

The problem is, some of the Bits are owned by Operators. The owning and moderation of some of those Bits, in fact, involves a lot of Operators.

Apple cater to them, the Operators. Not the owners of FM Broadcast equipment...

Apple make money from me using the internet apparently. /s

In fact, they do.

A citation needed would be appropriate here.

Consider this: Apple have been selling Internet access for decades now. They're leaders in the "hey, use this device for TCP/IP" pack.

You haven't explained how this makes them more profit than selling direct FM radio access.

They have marketing deals with vendors of TCP/IP services to provide handsets which promote broader use of TCP/IP over provider networks. Does nobody remember that Apple have had deals with ISP's since the very early days, and continue those deals as part of their overall strategy?

Yes, yes, citation needed.

More interesting would be getting the weather radio signal (not on the FM broadcast band, it's AM around 160MHz), and having the phone change which SAME code it's sensitive to as you move around.

I know you are supposed to get an SMS or something whenever there is a severe weather event, but after a million amber alerts and a flood warning a few states away, that's the first thing I turn off when I get a new phone. I've never seen it work, either.

I would also like to be able to receive these stations. Especially when hiking or otherwise in an remote area with no cell service.

Minor nitpick, its a narrow band FM signal around 160MHz not AM.

Is this just an american thing? I haven't heard of it over here


I remember one of my parents' old cars (mid-90s) having a WX channel on the radio. More recently i've only ever seen it available over VHF radio while boating.

Also, most airports will have weather broadcasts, but I think this is only accessible with an aviation-band VHF radio:


Japan has something similar for earthquakes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_Early_Warning_(Japa...

I wish a flagship phone would come with an SDR built into it. You can currently get a rtl-sdr to work with a phone through http://sdrtouch.com/ but that requires an external chip.

I want a phone with a SDR, and an FPGA so I don't need to run the samples through the cpu for filtering. An rf-hacker phone. Someone make this, please.

The market for this is hilariously vanishingly small. There's no way anyone would ever manufacture this at scale for the 1% of 1% of people who even know what SDR is.

They already have an sdr in them - its just locked. Getting the open access to utilize those components as I see fit - that is a serious challenge.


That would be super cool but you would have a battery life of like 60 minutes.

What you are referring to is called WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts, used to be called CMAS), which originates from FEMA based on an FCC spec. It doesn't work off SMS, it's a separate protocol that basically delivers alerts that are affecting the area of the cell towers you are connected to at that time.

The system had a lot of issues when it was first rolled out but it's been improved and seems to work well these days, although there are still carriers/towers that don't support it yet.

They are actually working on expanding it with many additional alert types and increasing the amount of content an alert can contain. However, I have a feeling this will lead to even more people turning them off for good.

Also you might be able to get weatherfax from satelite.

This is actually a really great idea.

Wow, news to me.

News that people in the USA can't, that is!

I won't say it's a particularly common thing to do, but here in the UK you certainly can listen to FM radio on your phone, provided you plugin earphones to be uses as an antenna.

* On some phones, for example the Nexus 5 does not have an FM receiver.

Well according to this anyway https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/nexus/gENfJPp...

I'm in the UK and I have an iPhone. How do I do this?

As the article says, you don't: Apple seems to have an incentive not to enable/support it. Regardless of their reasoning, they're not commenting on the matter.

iPhone may or may not have one, or may be locked just as it is in the US. I've never owned one.

On Android though a majority have a built-in FM radio app, and more available to download on the Play store.

You could have a look in the app store (make sure it's not lying about being FM and using your data) but if not maybe it's only possible if you jailbreak, or not at all.

As a fellow Brit, I've never seen a smartphone that does FM - though my feature phone does.

Interesting, Brit here too. It's the second or third feature I looked for when buying my current phone (Acer) - camera, good battery, radio.

http://www.gsmarena.com/results.php3?nYearMin=2013&chkFMradi... shows about 2000 phones made in the last 3 years with FM radio that are available to buy; I selected "touchscreen" to loosely limit to smartphones.

All of those apps are not actually FM radio apps - Android does not have a standard API for accessing FM radio. The apps you linked are actually just misleadingly named Internet radio players that only play from stations that also broadcast over FM.

Any phone which has FM radio will only be able to access it through an app distributed with the phone. Apparently Sony-Ericsson have some phones which have such a thing? Samsung might've done in the past, but not with their current flagships.

There are a few "true" FM radios hidden in there, but each works only on select devices, and most of them require root access.

Just a fun trivia fact ;)

Moto G 2014 has FM, with headphones as an antenna. The new version is supposed to work with it as well.

Both the S3 and S4 do support FM radio.

As does the Windows Phone I own.

Sony-Ericsson doesn't make phones since 2012... Sony does, and their models do have the FM tuner.

> [On the iPhone 6] the wireless chip is a Murata 339S0228 which houses the normal flavors of 802.11 wifi, Bluetooth, and has an FM transceiver.


> What we're missing is an appropriate antenna and an amplifier chip dedicated to driving that antenna. Unlike the murata chip that doesn't take up any extra space, those things /would/ take up extra space in the phone. While I'm of the opinion that Apple could have fitted them in if they wanted to, it doesn't change the fact that there's no hardware based solution for FM radio on the iPhone.


Apple is obsessive about using every square mm inside of an iPhone case. I can definitely see them saying "that chip would take up room we don't have for a feature few people ask for", and drop it from the design.

The next version of the iPhone probably won't even have the headphone jack so there won't even be the possibility of using the headphone jack antenna trick. Not unless they engineer it into the lightning connector (ha!).

There's possibly one reason why carriers (and probably vendors) haven't much interest in FM radios which the article and (if I don't overlooked) no comment mention: digital dividend.

At least here in Germany carriers awaiting the moment when FM broadcast is finally declared dead and their frequencies become free for sale. The VHF band between 87.5 to 108.0 MHz is of big interest especially for rural areas.

Great point, and I would imagine that spectrum / bands will be the next big "war" like patents have been recently for large entities. Lightsquared really tested the waters - and failed due to simple engineering and existing neighbors overlap (aka "No, you can't build a dirt bike track in the middle of a suburban neighborhood and next door to an Elementary school"). Getting access and legal approval will be quite a subject for lots of different modernized and modernizing countries to consider!

I wasn't aware of Lightsquared. But it seems like they were a "new player". If you look at the winning bids of the "Digitale Dividene (= digital dividend) I" and "Digitale Dividende II" in Germany it's easy to see that you have to be a big player to have real chances (or being even allowed to bid) in those frequency auctions.

"Digitale Dividende I": six 5 Mhz wide bands (always in "pairs") each between 570.849 and 627.317 million €. Winners: O2, Telekom, Vodafone. (source: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digitale_Dividende#Frequenzver...)

"Digitale Dividende II": thirty-one 5 Mhz wide bands (some of them "paired") each between 39.011 and 255.967 million €. Winners: Telekom, Vodafone, Telefónica (formerly O2). (source: http://www.bundesnetzagentur.de/cln_1432/DE/Sachgebiete/Tele...)

Further I know of some radio stations (especially community radios) which refuse to accept special offers from broadcast carriers for digital radio (DAB+ and DVB-T(2)) broadcasting because of the fear that this could be used as another argument against them having an own analog FM frequency.

That is quite strange ... Here in India, most people own an android. And Radio App is pre-installed in almost all those phones. You just have to plug-in your earphones to start using it. I expected that behavior to be universal.

'in India' is the key here. Market segmentation at its worst.

Sorry but I don't really get it ... what harm would enabling radio on a phone would do?

It's all over the article: it lessens the demand for streaming media over Internet, which of course means income for the telcos.

The cheaper chipsets seem to be more likely to have the FM functionality enabled.

I've recently returned from the British Grand Prix and resented the fact that my smartphone doesn't have a radio feature.

Had to invest £10 in a cheap plastic thing they sold at the circuit, while it did the job, I thought smartphones were supposed to be an end to having to carry around single function devices, in favour of the all-in-one solution.

Next time go to Poundworld/land if you want a radio! ;)

How about that Verstappen, eh?

What was the general feeling in the crowd while they puttered along behind the Safety Car for so long?

I want to attend one of the races in Europe next season and I've whittled my options down to Silverstone and Spa. How highly would you recommend the British GP?

Also, which smartphone do you have?

Yeah Verstappen was great, safety car start was disappointing but once the race started it was a good atmosphere, especially towards the end when Hamilton was driving his win home.

This was my first GP, so couldn't say really but I found everything at Silverstone great.

Spa would be a great race to go to as well, but I don't know what they are like for facilities.

I have a Nexus 5 from 2014, it does the job, just a shame about the radio really.

Doing a quick search has surfaced an item on this issue from a year ago. That article had this:

    But Jot Carpenter, vice president of government
    affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association, resists
    the move to turn on the FM chip.

    At a NAB convention in Las Vegas this week,
    Carpenter said there would have to be demand
    by smartphone consumers for mobile carriers to
    consider switching on the FM chip.

    "What Americans really want is the ability to
    stream, download and customize music playlists
    to meet their personal preferences," Carpenter
    said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal,
    "and that's not what the traditional FM radio
There were 100 comments on this submission:


And a further 6 comments on this one:


It would be interesting to compare this thread with those threads from 450 days ago to see if anything has changed in the HN community mind.

I'd like to tell him to stop telling me what I want.

And also maybe to recognize that cell data is expensive and overages can be punitive.

In my country one has to pay to the regime for using/owning "radio/tv receiver". That's why I am happy to have more devices without unblocked analog FM. It means for me more choice without having to pay for the brainwashing/propaganda.

if you're referring to Germany, you're obliged to pay anyways - whether you own a device or not (it's per household/company since a while). It doesn't matter how many devices you own though. And you're not paying "the regime", you're paying an independent institution. It's not a tax by design though it may feel like one. The government never gets to touch the money.

Now, there's a ton of things that are wrong with our nominally independent radio/tv stations, but if I look around and see how things go in other states on this little planet (hello fox news), I don't have any idea that works better in principle. I'll take the german system over any alternative so far offered (though the BBC is a close contender)

An unusual but arguably correct perspective is that "independent institutions" that pair extreme media influence on all other institutions, politicians, and democratic outcomes with the power of raising a privileged tax (they don't share their tax revenue with any other branch of government) ... are the regime.

Here's the problem with this tax (or however it's called): you're basically paying for some third party actions that you have no control over. Someone emits some electromagnetic radiation that you may or may not care about, but for some odd reason you have to pay for that. That feels... wrong.

Can't remember any other tax-like charges where one has to pay for something artificial that they could be completely unrelated to, yet don't have any control over.

If you remove the abstractions down to "someone emits some electromagnetic radiation" then yeah it makes no sense. Just like saying "someone out there is mixing hydrocarbons with rocks and dumping it on the ground that you may or may not care about".

Most people would rather discuss it in terms of "funding an independent source of media" and "building road infrastructure to move goods and services".

I'm not sure comparing radio with roads is correct.

For roads, maybe somewhere it's the same, but there are also funding ways that work differently. If you use the road (have a vehicle) you (probably, depends on where you are) pay the tax, either directly or included with the fuel price. If you don't drive a vehicle but use the roads indirectly (because the services you use, use that roads) you pay indirectly - trough your funding of those services and their respective use of vehicles. E.g. you buy stuff in a grocery store, the store pays to a transportation company, the transportation company pays taxes for their trucks - everyone's paying for what they actually use. So, it still feels fundamentally different from the broadcast taxes to me.

Public schools or libraries are probably a better analogy.

In the US, various forms of taxation at the federal, state and local level go in to providing funds for public schools. Everyone pays for schools even if they have no children. The only significant exception is that in some places, parents can receive vouchers to pay for private schools. Either way, the goal is that everyone receives a basic education to make a better society.

Everywhere in the US I've had a library card, it was similar. Libraries are funded by general taxes and their basic services are provided without charge to users who live in their tax area (county, most places).

Whether publicly-funded radio stations are a valuable public good in this way is reasonable to debate, but that's the model.

Depending on a single revenue source is the exact opposite of being independent; which is why they are always that outraged if someone proposes some reduction in funding. They are 100% dependent on parliament will. (...whether this is something you want your media to be, I don't know. It's a very German thing.)

But of course it's not only financially. The German Rundfunkrat is basically designed to be the very essence of what other cultures might dispraise as corporatism. - Despite it's justification as some cross section of society.

I'm not necessarily against the idea but the institutional design of German state media is arguably very bad.

ch4ck might have meant Poland, since there is a similar requirement here. However, the sentiment towards it is extremely negative because the new government (which is viewed very unfavorably by many) has decided to increase the monthly contribution, crack down on non-payers and tie the payment to your electricity bill. This also creates an issue for people and institutions who pay multiple electricity bills and thus are unfairly burdened by this new tax.

So an "independent institution" gets to use the power of government rifles to force you to pay tribute for a product you might never use. If it's independent, then why is the government working as their collection agency? How independent is it really? If your collections infrastructure can get cut off by the government at any time, where's the incentive to stay truly independent? I would offer that most organizations won't bite the hand that feeds them.

>> It's not a tax by design though it may feel like one.

If I'm forced to pay money to the government for a public "good," it's either a tax or extortion -- there's no other way to define it.

It doesn't matter if the cause is "worthy" or not -- it's a tax. Why not let the people that consume the product pay for the product? Imagine if the government forced everyone to buy a Spotify subscription. It's the same exact thing.

> Why not let the people that consume the product pay for the product?

Yeah, why not let the unemployed pay for the welfare! Or why not let the kids pay for the public schools!

Hittade muffaren!

>Manufacturers can activate the chip, but the decision to do so typically rests with carriers.

Um... carriers in US have any authority over hardware functions of people's devices? Why? What the hell?

Because of contracts. Every single phone on the market can turn itself into a wireless hotspot, but in US carriers have an ability to disable that option completely for users who haven't paid for a "tethering" package. It's crazy if you ask me.

I mean I knew American telcos were scum, but this is utterly ridiculous. What if you buy a device from abroad?

Doesn't matter. If you have an iphone then US carrier can send a command to it that completely disables tethering, I believe the option actually disappears from the menu. With android phones it's not as clear cut, some phones will respect that command some will not, obviously you can always make it work by rooting your phone, but most people don't do that.

I see. Is that a command sent via SMS? I know T-Mobile sent one (and when I didn't open it, a second) of those, but I've never opened them. But this is a Lumia, not an iPhone...

No, it's part of the cellular settings that your phone must download first and be configured by the network.

APN for an example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Access_Point_Name

if you buy an unsubsidized android device, the carriers don't get to tweak the functionality of the device. It doesn't have to be from an international seller - I bought my device directly from Motorola and just put my T-Mobile SIM card in it. However, it still comes with the US version of Android, which doesn't support the FM receiver.

It's not free to design or sell, even if the audio parts used "have the capability". If Apple thought they'd sell more phones, they'd do it.

Back when I was fighting the good fight against Apple, MP3 player vendors kept adding FM (and eventually HD Radio) in the hope that it was what Apple users were missing... The radio industry liked that strategy too.

P.S. Headphone antennas are kind of shit.

>It's not free to design or sell, even if the audio parts used "have the capability". //

The chances are that the system was designed to enable it and the choice to disable was made commercially. It seems most likely to be like hardware with more memory or faster clock speeds where the manufacturer just cripples it to make the cheaper model.

I always found this a weird omission from smartphones. I remember happily listening to FM radio on my ancient Nokia 8210, and probably the 3210 before that, and wondering why I couldn't do this on my iPhone.

Well, you can on most Android phones - in fact, I'm listening to N-Joy via FM right this very second on my Moto G (2014) while writing this comment.

It's just that iPhones seem to lack another substantial feature.

(Also, FM is infinitely cheaper than streaming - it's free, and works even in areas where no 3G coverage is available. Which makes it a lot more useful in countries with bad internet infrastructure, like the US or Germany)

To answer the question in the headline: Because it is better to have no function, than a crappy function.

It's another useless app, another menu item to browse through and for the company, another source of complaints and support cases.

Firstly, why is the choice between no function or a crappy function? Why would every FM radio app necessarily be crappy?

Secondly, why would it be useless when millions of people still listen to FM radio? In the UK for example, according to RAJAR (the UK radio body) 56% of radio listeners use FM compared to DAB or internet, which is around 26 million people.

Thirdly, why does the hardware have an FM receiver at all if I can't use it?

If it allowed me to listen to BBC Radio 4 news on my train journey, which I can't do using data because of a bad signal for most of the journey, then it would be very useful for me.

> Thirdly, why does the hardware have an FM receiver at all if I can't use it?

It doesn't. One of the support chips happens to have an FM transceiver along with the ones the phone uses, but it would also need an antenna and an amplifier to be able to receive FM radio. And a bigger battery and a bigger case (or less battery life). And more software. And more product QA and support.

Headphones can act as an antenna and work without a problem, battery usage is negligible. I've had FM radio in all phones I've ever owned in Europe (high or low end, smart or feature) and finding out you can't do this in the US seems ridiculous.

I just looked into the chip, and can see now that you're right. I agree that Apple probably hasn't enabled it because the amplifier and antenna are unfeasible.

Odd that they won't work in a £700 phone when they work perfectly well in a £10 phone.....

> Firstly, why is the choice between no function or a crappy function? Why would every FM radio app necessarily be crappy?

FM antenna has to be quite big no? My old Cowon media player needed to have the headphones plugged in in order to use the FM function. That would mean that people with Bluetooth headphones (an ever increasing number) are out of luck.

> Thirdly, why does the hardware have an FM receiver at all if I can't use it?

Because the receiver is part of a standard package shipped by Qualcomm and it is probably cheaper to leave it in. What the device does not have is an antenna and an amplifier for the signal (as mentioned in other comments)

> FM antenna has to be quite big no?

No. Here's some food for thought: The wavelengths used for cellular communications in the order of about 0.3m to 0.4m for a lambda/2 dipole that would be an antenna length of 0.15m to 0.2m, which is quite larger than your typical phone.

There's no rubber hose dangling out of modern phones (it used to, 20 years ago), so what's the deal here? Impedance matching,coupling efficiency and planar antenna array designs are. Technically any power of 2 fraction of a given wavelength can be used for an antenna for that wavelength, if assuming an simple wire antenna. But the higher the order, the higher the impedance and the lower the coupling efficiency. With a clever choice of dielectrics the coupling efficiency can be brought back again into manageable regions. And thanks to numerical field simulations we can now design small antenna shapes that can work on much larger wavelengths.

FM radio is receive only, so you do not even require very good coupling efficiency, because you don't have to deal with TX reflection backlash. Hence the problem boils down to designing a reasonably small patch antenna for the 3m band and a receiver circuit that can deal with the high impedance and low coupling efficiency. Back in the day of radios made from discrete components that would have been prohibitively expensive, but these days you can throw a couple hundred of components at some unused corner of your RF grade semiconductor die and have dealt with it.

Making it good would make it more expensive than the returns you can expect. If it is possible to make it good, as the antenna is largely out of control.

Fm is not useless, but bad Fm is.

The third question is silly. Who's side are you arguing? The chip is there because it's more expensive not to have it. It's not like Apple adds Fm so they can laugh at the feature you almost had.

It won't allow you to listen To BBC. At least none of the FM enabled mp3 players I've touched would allow you to listen to FM in anything remotely reasonable.

> At least none of the FM enabled mp3 players I've touched would allow you to listen to FM in anything remotely reasonable

Like a lot of others on this thread, in 2005, I had a tiny Nokia 6610 that let me do exactly that.

Having read about the chip, I can understand why it's there, and I can also understand the probable tradeoffs involved that have lead to the decision not to enable it. But I am still surprised and a little disappointed.

I have a Moto G 3rd generation, with FM radio enabled. Works like a charm, and it's not the most expensive phone around.

I don't think the companies making smartphones care that much about that one extra menu item. Considering that phones are already preloaded with bunch of crap you never need, and widgets that nag at you...

That certainly doesn't deter carriers from bundling tons of crappy, impossible to disable apps with phones.

> So when a disaster knocks out power and takes down cell service—along with those government emergency alerts—you’re going to need a radio to know what’s going on.

Remember that Paul Graham essay about how most articles that aren't about politics or war are pitched to the journalist by someone with a stake in the matter? This is almost word for word what they say in the NextRadio app's radio commercials.

> Remember that Paul Graham essay about how most articles that aren't about politics or war are pitched to the journalist by someone with a stake in the matter?

Most articles about politics and war are spurred by politicians' and/or governments' press releases, leaks, etc., and so are also pitched to journalists, often en masse, by someone with a stake in the matter.

There's a difference between putting out information for general dissemination and actually contacting a journalist directly.

Not that the latter doesn't happen in politics. But government press releases are pretty likely to be newsworthy just because of what they are.

Tablets sold in US also do not have voice capabilities. 8" table is an excellent phone for daily use.

In some European countries you have to pay license for radio receiver. For phone with FN radio you would pay $25/year, that is lot of money with national average salary $8000.

Wait, having to pay for a license to listen to radio? Where?

Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Sweden, ... Even more countries have similar rules for TV. Generally to support public stations.

In Germany you used to have to pay the radio fee for owning a cell phone anyway. Recently they changed to a household model, now it doesn't matter whether you have a receiver or not.

In Sweden you only pay for TV ownership, not FM radio

Same in the UK....

Most of my Motorola devices on Verizon here in the US have had an FM Radio app, or supported them if you install your own. My Windows Phone, also on Verizon, also supports it. Yet this article suggests Verizon users get "tough luck". Huh.

Is there a way to get radio on your iPhone? Could you "jailbreak" it? I'm in the UK (EE is the carrier) and missed the Wimbledon final due to being on a train, it would have been great to have radio...

Maybe a really stupid question, but how does this work out:

> Manufacturers can activate the chip, but the decision to do so typically rests with carriers. If you’re Verizon customer, tough luck.

If Verizon is the carrier, they just provide your SIM-card, right? You don't need to buy your phone along with your mobile plan. I bought my Samsung Android S4 from an online shop, my carrier had nothing to do with that. I just insert my (their) SIM for calls and texts and data.

So who decided not to enable the radio, here?

It can be more complicated with US carriers. Verizon and Sprint (the 1st and 4th biggest carriers) traditionally have used CDMA technologies without SIM cards. This is changing with LTE, but their non-LTE technologies do not use SIM cards. Furthermore, these carriers will generally refuse to activate a phone from another carrier or retailer to be used on their network. So, while you can just put a Verizon SIM in a tablet for LTE data, you can't do the same with a phone. (I'm not sure how this will work with VoLTE.)

I miss having the FM Radio app in CyanogenMod on my Droid Incredible. It was hard to get good reception with the headphone antenna, but it was still fun to play with and use.

AFAIK this is something that needs to be activated at the software (or rather, firmware) level, and is yet another argument for Free Software.

FM radio, save NPR and the one or two classical stations, is 99% ad-ridden garbage. Just like cable and network television.

Not everywhere in the world.

Fair point, my comment was too US-Centric. I love the BBC...I had an app for streaming it, but it was buggy and suffered from frequent buffering.

It's very simple. Apple doesn't want you to listen to the radio, they want you to buy music on iTunes.

Besides the debate, I've ditched smartphones (for productivity and ecological reasons) in favor of a Nokia featurephone and I'm surprised by how much I'm listening to the radio on it. Not knowing what you're going to hear is a pleasant experience in these days.

To anyone who's been able to get this to work: can the radios be tuned to arbitrary frequencies, or are they restricted to entertainment? A cheap, unlocked Android phone would make for a nice police scanner. Trunking could likely be handled via an app.

You can buy radio cards that can scan police (and, well, all) frequencies for much less than an android phone.


It would also be nice to get the aviation band which is just above FM at ~120 MHz range.

I don't get it, why do manufacturers bother adding an FM chip if they never activate it?

It's built-in to the LAN chips - you buy one chip that does WiFi and Bluetooth and it also happens to have FM support because presumably it's easy enough to just toss in there (and there's probably enough demand for the feature among low-end devices)

Each European country has a national broadcaster and collects radio/TV license fee (some are less strict about it than the others). I wouldn't be surprised if national broadcasters or fee collectors were pushing for presence of this chip in mobiles so no one can use the excuse "I don't have radio/TV so why should I pay the license?".

Many of them already achieve the same result by saying "you can receive our online streams so pay up", I don't think underfunded public broadcasters in Europe are busy bribing chipset manufacturers to add features their customers don't want

The national or regional broadcaster is also a designated news source in case of emergency. If this were true, I would rather expect the rationale to be about emergency coordination than broadcast licensing.

I think it comes with the SOC

Well, because the same chip is used in devices that do activate it?

support costs... which in this case is probably negligible but they will still get calls complaining that it doesn't work.

In Brazil many low-lower-end Android phones (from LG, for example, but I'm sure from other non-Apple brands too) have FM and even TV receivers.

The same phones support multiple SIM cards because cash-strapped folks on prepaid cards are aggressive optimisers.

In India we have free streaming apps from the network provider like Airtel which allows downloads or offline playing of millions of songs without paying ,people really don't miss FM radio that much as it used to.

and killing net neutrality in the process. What will the likes of gaana/saavn do now ? eventually they will lose there revenues, shut down and guess what's next ? Paying Airtel music subscription.

This annoys me so much, here in Australia DAB (digital radio) is nerfed so much that the broadcast quality is significantly lower than FM so it's not even worth buying a nice, fancy DAB unit for your home HiFi.

48 kilobit stereo AAC+ per station, 10+ stations on a single frequency.

Is it possible to avoid articles from Wired? Sick of not being able to view articles without the ad-hustle Wired pulls on viewers -- must try reading on lynx to see if this solves the problem.

It would be cool if it can be used like rtl-sdr, right on the phone.

I didn't know this wasn't something all phones had. I love random FM radio when I'm on a walk. The moment I hit an ad in just seek and listen to something new.

If the rumors are true and Apple removes the 3.5mm headphone jack, it is likely we still won't have FM in the next iteration of the iPhone.

"Every smartphone has a FM tuner built in"

Well, from what I've read my nexus 5x does NOT have an FM tuner on board.

What's going on with Wired? This page has an autoplay video ad below the article text and an anti-AdBlock full-screen subscription nagger that pops up a few seconds after page load.

I'm running NoScript, and I saw no anti-AdBlock or video. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that NoScript is the only reasonable way to browse the web today. Random websites can't be entrusted to run javascript in a way that's not hostile to my interests.

> Random websites can't be entrusted to run javascript in a way that's not hostile to my interests.

I encourage you to consider that any website that runs arbitrary code on your computer _at all_ is hostile to your interests, by default. Websites today are becoming more programs than documents; rather than presenting you with a download dialog like you'd traditionally see with software, your browser is clicking "Download and Run" for you.

Cooper Quintin of the EFF had a Privacy Badger talk at LibrePlanet 2016 that emphasizes just how many third parties you are "trusting" when you visit a website.


I spoke more generally:


You do realize that if everybody followed your example, they will at one point block NoScript too?

Also, half of HN would be out of a job :)

Setting aside the why and wherefore; how would they block NoScript?

Imagine a world where all content is loaded over XHRs and the DOM serves only to load Javascript.

This is becoming an increasingly prevalent pattern. I really miss the document-oriented web of the late 90's / early 00's.

Honest question: Why?

I don't understand why people inherently dislike Javascript (aside from, y'know, creepy ad networks).

Because we want the information to be free. If the web server is serving a document, you can do all sorts of stuff with it - you can index it, you can transform it, you can save it for later.

If the web server is serving a DRM-ed program, that loads the human-viewable data over non-standard interfaces, all that breaks. Only humans in front of the web browser will be able to see the data.

Or sufficiently dedicated people to run a headless browser to run the Javascript and re-build the content and work on the rebuilt DOM. But also we now need NoScript, JS blockers, 3rd party blockers, and the publishers invest in anti-adblocks. It's a neverending arms escalation between those who want to restrictively publish information, and those that want the information without restrictions. So all this JS-based workaround to try to DRM things only brings more work for everybody involved, with minimal results.

NOTE: when I say DRM, I actually mean Digital Policy Enforcement - the publishers want to maintain their policies around access to their information (e.g. you cannot see this article without seeing this ad) using digital means. But DRM has a nicer twist to it - the uninformed may mistake the R for My Rights.

I like the term DRP (Digital Revenue Protection)

Seems to cover the intent of things quite nicely :)

RMS always refers to DRM as Digital Restrictions Management.

Also conveys the intent quite nicely - plus you can keep the acronym ;-)

I thought he used it to refer to delicious ripped foot manifolds?


Because, besides the creepy ad networks and stuff, it's most often used in a mix of shitty engineering and user-hostile practices.

Let's consider a web document like this article here. Its stated goal is to be read by the visitor and thus deliver him value. So presumably, an article that's easier to read is better than one harder to read. An article that, ceteris paribus, consumes less resources on user end is better than one that consumes more.

Now we have a perfect technology to deliver that article. Plain old HTML. With a little bit of CSS on top. When what you want to send is text communicating a message, you need exactly zero JavaScript to do that successfully[0]. You barely even need much CSS - the default browser styles, raw as they are, are better than most web designers produce, if you care about providing value to the user.

Now if you don't, here starts JavaScript. Look at just what JS on Wired does and find me one line of code that actually serves the user. The JS there tracks you, shows you ads, shows you nagging popups[1], adds social media buttons that are somewhat useful if you want to exchange being tracked everywhere for convenience of not having to CTRL+TAB to that Facebook tab. In general, JS here is a waste of electricity (often in users' phone batteries).

You can run a similar analysis of other websites[2] and rarely if ever you'll find one when JavaScript does anything other than fuck users over more or less subtly. The technology is fine, but everyone[3] is using it for user-hostile purposes, and/or because of bad engineering. Think of all the scroll hijacking, JS rendering article text dynamically on a blog page, etc. Personally I dislike it from the very same reason I dislike crappy code.


[0] - Sure, JS can be used to qualitatively enhance the reading experience, to make it more pleasant and efficient. I accept that in principle, but I'll cede the point only when I see anyone other than Bret Victor actually doing it.

[1] - Wired, I appreciate that you wanted to say "thank you" to me for turning off uMatrix for a second, but could you please do not do that with a popup?

[2] - Web apps are a different topic; I don't think anybody is saying you should turn off JavaScript for GMail or Google Docs. But most of the sites on the web are not, and should not behave like web apps.

[3] - Except Bret Victor.

I once was smart enough to burst into a rant about exactly this in an interview question.

I didn't get the job.

Next I was joking with a friend that all the layers of abstraction added to the web are probably part of some big conspiracy by web developers to create artificial demand and job security. You run a heavy CMS but the bells and whistles confuse rather than help the user, and they'd rather pay for an hour of hour time than figure things out themselves. Your spa makes a simple series of documents feel like an app, with all the added complexity, but in the end the user couldn't care less about the full page transitions or parallax scrolling.

I have one simple rule: if it's about information retrieval, it's supposed to be a simple bloody document. If it's supposed to act like an app, it should look like an app. The latter is the propper use case for JS, but people are applying the latter to the former. This is not user centric design.


JS on a website that is otherwise not an app has its use cases ie. tabulated data, search, filtering, realtime data etc.

But a static website displaying a simple article has no fucking business running any code other than HTML/CSS on my computer.

Reddit's mobile site takes 1-2 seconds to load comments through JavaScript, and heaven forbid you click a link; that destroys your scroll position. Disable JavaScript and comments load instantly and the back button actually works.

JavaScript seemingly is more often used to degrade basic site functionality, rather than enhance it.

Because js-heavy sites are slow on a bit older pc's that are otherwise perfectly capable for most of the other tasks.

See idlewords.com/talks/website_obesity.htm

Speed and bandwidth usage are part of it. I visit a site, wanting to see specific content. The vast majority of the 44 domains (according to uBlock Origin) that Wired connects to aren't actually needed to render what I'm trying to look at. They're mostly ads, tracking scripts, analytics. None of which help me and most of which are never used to help shape the content, only monetise user data and serve adverts.

I recently found d a stash of web pages I had saved locally over a decade ago. They still load...a modern one wouldn't.

You should create screenshots instead.

Those don't scale with resolution changes.

A saved webpage can stay as responsive as an ebook.

Screenshots are also bigger than necessary (image instead of text + metadata), and are not greppable.

Why? So I can fuck around with OCR later?

The data is already structured.

Render the page invisible, make it viewable with JS and/or just use an XHR to load the content.

If you happen to be using Firefox, setting the config variable:


To false, disables auto play media everywhere.

Thanks, good tip. That should probably be the default, but oh well.

edit: I just realized it also affects youtube in an annoying way (have to skip ahead a bit or the video won't play at all). Would be nice if I could whitelist that.

Yeah, agree. You shouldn't have to skip ahead though, just double pump the play button. A greasemonkey script should be able to do it too.

In chrome I blocked plugins by default under Settings>Show Advanced Settings>(Privacy section)Content Settings>Plugins Section

I do that too, but it still autoplayed. I think it's an HTML5 video.

this is what bothered me about html5, a new ability to shove video content. Surprised it took so long to take off.

Same reaction here... they made me feel guilty about using adblock, I was nice enough to disable it, then that unrelated video kept on playing, and they popped up another message saying thanks... Who's in charge of this? ugh...

I clicked back instantly. It's idiotic to have a video spew out high volume sound automatically. Almost woke our one year old.

So no more clicking on wired links for me!

That's why I always have the sound muted in my laptop. I, of course, use an adblocker, but there are some sites I had to whitelist which cannot be trusted. Disabling the sound makes it much better: even if something decides to auto-play, so what? Most of the time I don't even notice when this happens: such videos are frequently at the bottom, and by the time I get there the video already stopped playing.

It's also at the bottom of the page. Even if we assume I'm interested in their video I would have to manually restart it anyway just so I can see it from the beginning.

Part of their war on adblockers. In the past the adblocker nag has popped after you scroll down, well an autoplay video will get you scrolling to find out where it is and blam they pop the adblocker. Of course none of that happens if you hit 'reader view' in Firefox, nice easy to read article.

Its one of the reasons I've stopped reading Fortune and Wired web articles.

Wrong answer. I don't have an adblocker, yet I have too got an auto-play video with very loud sound.

Collateral damage?

Don't all of the major videos have mute buttons on the tabs. Firefox has had it for a while now

mute doesn't seem to stop the bandwidth hogging.

Although once the 'blocker' nag pops up reader view gives a cannot load message

No anti-adblock message with uBlock.

That video (assuming we're seeing the same one) seems to be a short Wired production; unrelated content rather than advert.

It was a (very loud) Kayak ad for me. What a blatant user-hostile move. Pathetic.

Oh well, Wired just got itself removed from my adblock whitelist (after only a couple weeks on it).

I see the anti-adblock with my uBlock. Must be your filters.

Edit: yep, I just activated the "Anti-Adblock Killer | Reek‎" filter and it's gone.

Sorry, it's uBlock _Origin_. Not sure what the difference is, but I haven't done anything custom.

Strange, I have uBlock Origin and the Anti-Adblock killer | Reek, yet I still see the nag

I have uBlock Origin, no custom filters / extra plugins. No nagging. I'm from Europe, maybe it has something to do with the types of ads displayed to the US users? (Like some providers requiring anti-adblock measures)

Ah, that might be it. I am too.

Same here, also no auto-play. I use uBlock Origin and disabled third-party scripts and frames globally. I whitelist only a few pages.

Just block the JS. I looked around for a JS blocker, and found ScriptSafe, which makes the web really usable. I turn on JS for the servers I trust, and sites like Wired and NYT just feed me readable text without any ads.

Some of the more obnoxious sites won't let you read the full article (or any of the article, in some cases) without JS. Of course, you can just use some trickery to hide the overlay, but it gets pretty annoying.

For such sites you keep the button "temporarily allow JS execution" somewhere handy in your browser UI, but for more obnoxious sites you'll probably quit after getting bored from long loading time after getting used to how fast everything else is with scripts disabled :P

What's the advantage of using an add-on like ScriptSafe against just disabling JS in settings?

I use uMatrix for blocking scripts. By default I allow all 1st party scripts, and disable the rest. Then I can enable additional sources one by one if site functionality (e.g. playing YouTube videos) needs it.

The point is not to block JS completely, but to disallow it when not necessary (which it isn't for most of the time). There are plenty of legitimate uses of JS and keeping "allow JS on this domain now" button in accessible place is very handy.

Plus of course you can lift the restrictions selectively for each domain. From my experience it usually takes one or two domains to allow in order to get the needed functionality, and the rest (usually around 10) can be kept blocked.

You can whitelist easier and quicker and in some blockers you can block specific ad or tracker domains only.

It isn't just their website either. I noticed over the last few years that they've gone all-out on advertising in the magazine too. It's not just so bad in the US where the magazine is around $1.50 an issue on subscription, but in the UK it's around $3.50. I unsubscribed after a few years. It was so stuffed full of adverts, I just couldn't be bothered with it any more.

Some months it would take 10+ pages of adverts to get to the first piece of content. And the worst was those glued-in cardboard ad pages in the middle - you can never really rip them out properly, and the magazine always inconveniently flops open at that page whenever you get close to it.

They're just trying to monetise the pants off the brand, and it's a real shame. I loved Wired. Not it's just another Outbrain-laden, cardboard-stuffed piece of junk.

My adblocker blocks the nagger.

But the video still plays.. I actually wonder how the coerce my Chrome to do that.

> What's going on with Wired? This page has an autoplay video ad below the article text and an anti-AdBlock full-screen subscription nagger that pops up a few seconds after page load.

"Revenue is falling; quick, what should we do?"

"Shut up and keep digging."

Thanks for the warning, will not visit Wired again. Auto-play video ads, anti-adblock screens and clickbaity, capitalized titles are all diseases of the "modern" web and should be dealt with accordingly.

I have privacy badger from eff on, I don't even care about ads, as long as they don't track me. But that still shows up the subscription nagger.

They should update: We get it: Tracking you through multiple pages without your permission is not why you’re here for. But Tracking you through multiple pages without your permission help us keep the lights on.

Really. Find a better way to "keep the lights on". I wouldn't block ads if they would respect my privacy.

Turned off JS to read the article.

I rarely visit Wired, so I have no issue circumventing their anti-adblock popup, as far as I am concerned those auto playing video stunts immediately put them in my little book of offensive websites.

A little bit of investigation in the source shows that if you block 'www.wired.com/assets/load?*' with AdBlock (or your blocker of choice), then the page works fine, but without the annoying popup.

Didn't see the anti-AdBlock nagger with ublock O.

Sometimes when I hit a nagger, for example Forbes, I can load the site from google search and the nagger is averted


How's this for strange: I got a modal popup Thank You for not using an adblocker... so, distracted all the same.

Haven't read a single Wired article since. Can't say I have really missed much.

Consider using the browser Brave which strips all ads by default. When a site like Wired screws with me, I just use Brave.

Viewed with JS disabled, no video, no pop ups.

I figured that when publishers do that (autoplay) to you, you can respond back by blocking scripts for them.

never noticed that, but I'm running uBlock + NoScript.


I down voted this because it's off-topic and is taking up the top half of the comment section.

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