Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Yes! There’s an FM radio in your phone… but they don’t let you use it.

In my resent blog entry, “The Top 10 Things you need during a Disaster”, I explained how important it was to have a cellphone. Of course simply being able to call for help if needed and contacting people is a huge asset on its own but then you have a ton of other features, either included on the phone itself or through apps. Smartphones are amazing pieces of technology which allow you go online, access maps, use built in GPS navigation and even LED flashlights, just to mention a few.
People quickly pointed out that during disasters such as the Boston Bombing, Katrina and Sandy, networks are overloaded and phones don’t work. This is true given the bandwidth overload when everyone tries to call at the same time. It is also true that many times although voice calls cant go through, text messages do, and service providers recommend people to use these instead during disasters. Having a smartphone also means you may take advantage of wifi hotspots which are often set up after disasters to help during the rescue operations.
One of the things I mentioned was that another advantage a smartphone has, even if everything else fails, was the ability to be used as a FM receiver. When nothing else works, its through FM radio that critical information is provided to the population. This is a great asset. The reply from people was immediate “But most cellphones these days don’t have FM receivers!”. This caught me by surprise given that we have fairly new phones in my house and I made sure before buying them that they all have FM receivers, specifically for this reason. After reading up I understood the confusion:
Most smartphones in the market today, Iphone, Samsungs and such, they DO have FM receivers. The problem is that these are blocked for most phones intended for the American market. In the rest of the world, this function is not blocked, therefore an “American” Samsung Note will not have a working FM receiver while an “International” model will.
Why would anyone do such a thing, you may ask? Well, as always follow the money. Service providers don’t want you using a radio when they can force you to stream radio through the internet using their data services. Also, Apple profits greatly from selling music in itunes. They would lose millions if people decided to listen to radio a bit more for free rather than paying for each song they listen.

Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Of course, there’s something very wrong about having a function blocked in the phone you paid for, just so that someone can profit from it. There’s also strong case for it being a public safety matter. Disaster management experts agree on the importance of having radio available in people’s phones and how this literally saves lives during worst case scenarios. What can you do about it? Actually there’s already an initiative demanding FM chip activation in phones. Take action now! Follow the link below:
Also, there’s more good news: Not all smartphones in America have the FM receiver blocked. HTC and Motorola are among such companies.

If you’re in the market for a new phone, Motorola has the very affordable yet outstanding Moto G, which I highly recommend. This is the phone my son uses and it has a lot going for it. The Moto G is very cheap, uses the latest Android OS, it has 4G LTE, has a pretty good screen and processor and expandable micro SD memory. From a survival perspective, its waterproof, very robust, has an LED light and an unblocked FM radio. Just put a cheap rugged case on it and you’re good to go. Check my video review of the Moto G for a closer look.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.


Augustine said...

If it were a matter of the carriers trying to eliminate competition, it would also be true in Europe. Alas, it's probably a regulation thing that requires additional certifications that manufacturers rather nor bother with. After all, even most unlocked phones purchased directly from retailers disable the FM radio.

Anonymous said...

Are there any techs out there that know how to unblock the US phones? Can it be done?

Anonymous said...

Blackberry also has FM built-in to some of their newer phones. The headphones operate as the antenna.