We track the sales and capabilities of the top-selling smartphones sold in the U.S. – which we define as the upper 70 percent of U.S. sales – typically equating to approximately the 20 most popular phone models of the day. We explore the internal design of these phones to determine their FM reception capabilities. The chart below shows the most recent data available (second quarter of 2016). This data indicates that of the 27 million top-selling smartphones sold in the U.S. during that period, 96 percent were equipped with an FM radio tuner, yet FM reception was activated for users (by at least one major carrier) in only 46 percent (12.7 million) of those phones.

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This means that more than half of the phones sold during this period do not have FM radio reception capabilities, although almost all of them do have the capability to receive FM radio, yet the feature is not activated. Of these FM-capable but non-activated devices, the vast majority (89 percent) are Apple iPhones.


Why does it matter? Americans are consuming more audio and video on the go than ever before. Smartphones and tablets have become walking entertainment centers. But the convenience of on-the-go entertainment can carry a hefty price tag for consumers, given that most service providers charge for wireless data by the bit. With FM radio capability, a mobile device user doesn’t have to stream audio, but receives it over the air for free – with up to six times less battery drain than streaming requires. And during crisis situations when cellular networks can go down, over-the-air radio stays on.

The chart below shows how sales of FM-activated smartphones have grown over time.

FM in Smartphones 2nd 2016 Quarter Bar Chart

Learn more at freeradiononmyphone.org.