According to Cisco, global mobile data traffic grew 74 percent in 2015, reaching 3.7 exabytes per month at the end of 2015. We use cellular and Wi-Fi connections to watch online videos, talk to our friends and family, read the news, and listen to radio. When combined, these activities can quickly eat up your monthly mobile data allocation. Fortunately, you can save many precious megabytes by listening to local AM and FM radio stations using your cell phone’s FM receiver.
Using Your Cell Phone’s FM Receiver
You may not know it, but your smartphone likely has an FM receiver. “The reason you can’t currently access this smartphone feature is because some wireless carriers are opting not to turn on the FM chip for U.S. customers,” explains Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Unfortunately, there’s no way for you as an individual customer to activate the FM receiver in your smartphone on your own. Instead, your wireless carrier must decide to activate FM chips on all devices on their network. Public broadcasting stations, such as Oregon Public Broadcasting, have been successfully advocating to bring FM reception to all carriers, but there’s still some work that needs to be done—and you can help. If you are a Verizon or Apple customer, pick up your smartphone and contact your carrier. Explain why it’s important for them to unlock the FM chip in all smartphones they sell. With enough people loudly banging on the companies’ front doors and voicing their disagreement with their baseless policies, the management is guaranteed to notice.
Those who already have a device with an unlocked FM chip can simply download and test our top 3 favorite radio app for Android. The first two require data to stream radio, but the last uses headphones as an antenna.
Founded 14 years ago, in Dallas, TuneIn currently broadcasts over 100,000 radio stations and millions of on-demand programs and podcasts to 50 million monthly active users. The service is available on virtually all mobile platforms, and the developers do a great job of delivering a highly polished user experience.
Among many key features of the app is the ability to quickly and easily find interesting stations, shows, and podcasts directly from the app and bookmark them for future use. Thanks to the Google Voice support, you can just say “OK Google, listen to ESPN Radio,” allowing you to keep both hands on the wheel or in the warm pockets of your winter jacket.
Premium users additionally get access to a library of over 40,000 audiobooks, exclusive content from 600 music stations, and live play-by-play from every NFL, MLB, and BPL game. The only thing premium users don’t get is ads.
Owned by iHeartMedia, an American mass media corporation headquartered in San Antonio, iHeartRadio is an Internet radio platform founded in 2008 as iheartmusic.com. The station currently aggregates content from around 800 local stations across the United States. The company has recently announced two subscription-based services called iHeartRadio Plus and iHeartRadio All Access. With these services, subscribers can enjoy extra features such as offline use, replay, playlists, and others.
The platform’s Android app has a high rating of 4.7 stars, with many users praising its polished user interface and various customization options. iHeartRadio makes it very easy to create a personalized music station based on previously liked songs. The app also features podcasts from personalities like Ryan Seacrest, Colin Cowherd, Sean Hannity, Elvis Duran, Bobby Bones, and others. The cheaper subscription plan costs $4.99 a month, and the more expensive plan costs $9.99 a month. If you want to create your own playlists and listen to them offline, the more expensive plan is the way to go. On the other hand, if you just want to replay your favorite songs and skip those that you don’t like, the cheaper plan is enough.
Compared to the previous two local radio apps on this list, NextRadio is fundamentally different. The app uses the cord from your headphones as an antenna to receive local FM radio signals, instead of relying on your cellular data connection. As a result, the app uses 75% less battery and 92% less data than regular streaming apps, according to the official description. The only problem is that not every device is compatible, as we’ve explained earlier. Before you download the app, you might want to check out the official list of supported devices. That being said, the vast majority of AT&T, Sprint, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile, and Alcatel smartphones should work just fine.
Even though the app fundamentally works just like the old radio your grandparents still have in their bedroom, it significantly improves the overall listening experience by throwing in a whole bunch of extra features. You can see the artwork and song information while you listen, rate which songs you like and which you would rather not listen to again, and share what you’re listening to on social media sites.