Having a radio on your phone can be very useful, and while our list of 5 best smartphones with FM radio can help you choose a new smartphone, it may also help you discover hidden FM radio on the phone you already own. Using radio on the phone can save you bandwidth, and even some battery life compared to streaming, but that is not the only perk of having a radio on the phone. If some kind of disaster happens, whether it is a flood, wildfire, hurricane, or a terrorist attack, a local radio station is probably the best source of information, and radio stations usually have backup power generators so even if electric grid is down they can keep broadcasting.
Mobile phones with built-in FM radio, are actually quite common as most phones come with Qualcomm chips, that also include FM radio tuner. Even Apple cannot escape using Qualcomm LTE modems, though this partnership is currently suffering from lawsuits. Knowing this you might ask — Can you listen to the radio on an iPhone? Well not really, at least not to the real radio. The FM chip is disabled on iPhones, because Apple wants you to use their streaming services. Unfortunately, there is no way to activate the FM chip on an iPhone, and your only options are apps that stream radio stations and therefore use data, such as TuneIn radio, or iHeartRadio. What about FM radio on android without the internet? That depends not only on the phone, but also on the region/carrier where you bought it. For example Mexico’s government recently approved a new law, that requires from all phone manufacturers, that their smartphones with FM radio chips, have to have them enabled. Though there is no such law in Europe, most phones come with activated radio by default. As reported by the Verge, the Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai, said that “as of last fall, only 44 percent of the “top-selling smartphones” in the US had activated FM radios”.
OK, but how to activate FM chip? First go to the NextRadio page, that lists supported devices, and if your device is on the list, install NextRadio app and that is about it. The only thing left is to plug in your headphones and enjoy. Yes, you need headphones, even if you want to play music via speaker(s), because headphones act as an antenna. Regarding data consumption, NextRadio uses data even in FM mode if internet connection is available for album art and some other stuff, so if your goal is to save bandwidth be sure to disable the internet. That is the method that works when carrier just removed the original radio app from the phone. If your phone has FM chip, (you can check all hardware specs for any phone on GSMArena) but is not supported by NextRadio, there is still one last option though we certainly would not recommend it. If you are feeling adventurous, you could try rooting your device, installing stock Android or some other ROM, and if you haven’t bricked your device in the process, after all that hassle try out Spirit FM app, also keep in mind that the app is not free. Unfortunately, even that will not work for all devices, because some have FM chip disabled on the hardware level. If you are displeased with the situation, with carriers and manufacturers, take action!
Given that you like radio, you probably spend a lot of time listening music so you might find our list of 8 Smartphones with Best Music Quality useful.
The main problem in the creation of our list was the fact that whether the phone has activated FM chip, differs so much from carrier to carrier. There was no way to cover all carriers in the US per each rank. Because there is nothing preventing carriers from pushing updates that disable NextRadio functionality – the worst example being Verizon that already demonstrated such behavior, your best bet is buying an unlocked phone, free of carrier’s control. NextRadio currently supports 149 different devices in the US and the number is growing, so for our list of the best smartphones with FM radio, we’ve taken a look at various smartphones review sites, such as AndroidCentral, PhoneArena, and AndroidAuthority, and checked if the phone is compatible with NextRadio. Our criteria were, how good is the phone according to reviewers, how recent the model is, and we’ve also taken a look at which phones are the best in an unlocked category. Keep in mind that this list is for the US, and things vary significantly from region to region — for example, Samsung phones on our list do not have a radio in versions for Europe, because they don’t use Qualcomm but Exynos chips.