Emmis CEO discusses FM chips in smartphones

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A prominent Indianapolis businessman says last week was the most gratifying of his career. And it happened while he was on vacation.

For more than six years, Jeff Smulyan, Chair and CEO of Emmis Communications, has tried to make our smartphones do one more thing. He has tried to make them also work as FM radios.

He is now beginning to see some success in that campaign. Last week, AT&T said, starting in 2016, it would start activating the FM chips in its Android phones. U.S. Sprint has also agreed to make the change.

FM chips are already in smartphones. In most, they’re just not turned on. So with activation, your phone “could be an FM radio”, Smulyan said.

The cell phone industry objected. In 2012, a leader of the industry told 24-Hour News 8 Smulyan was “trying to figure out how to transition his business from a, if you will, 20th century business model to a 21st century business model.”

The CTIA said apps and music streaming services already do what Smulyan wants to do.

Since then, Smulyan’s side created the Next Radio app to make FM service more competitive and more appealing. It would work much like your car radio does. Your phone would pick-up the signals of FM radio stations in the cities you visit.

Smulyan likes the interactivity of Next Radio – from rating songs to buying concert tickets.

But his favorite selling point is safety. He says with local radio in your phone, you can get emergency alerts that you wouldn’t hear on a traditional streaming service.

He also says the FM service won’t drain your cell phone’s battery as fast. Nor will it put such demands on data rates.

The decision by AT&T is “a tipping point” in Smulyan’s eyes. He predicts other phone companies will fall in line within a year. He expects Apple to be the last to make the change.

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