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Do Consumers REALLY Want an FM Chip in Their Smart Phones?

by Ed Ryan

I'm always skeptical of polls and surveys. It was just yesterday that one poll said President Obama has a 7-point lead over Mitt Romney. Another poll had Romney up by 4. How can that happen? Who should you believe? Plus, how do you ever really know if someone being polled is telling you the truth? Because you send them a dollar in the mail, they are going to give you all straight answers?

Results from a Harris Interactive survey, regarding the FM cell phone chip, commissioned by the NAB, were released Tuesday. Broadcasters are saying consumers want FM chips in their cell phones. You've probably read that headline in many of the other trades today. The wireless industry says there's no demand for such a thing. Who should you believe?

I live in Florida. Our house is stocked with candles, a lot of peanut butter, flashlights, buckets of batteries and more than ten radios just waiting for that next Hurricane to sweep us into the Gulf. If we lose power for 3-5 days, where would I charge my iPhone, if it even had an FM chip, so I could listen to local radio? I can listen to TuneIn now until the battery dies. I'm guessing most people will listen to their battery operated radio and save the cell phone battery for calls to family or to see if the liquor store is open yet.

The NAB has been lobbying members of Congress to get them to buy into the argument that FM chips in cell phones save lives. How could it hurt, but is that really the reason? A handful of NAB board members even attended a recent congressional roundtable discussion about the issue. It's hard to speculate where the chip issue will end up with Congress, and the NAB has backed off on any plans to ask Washington to mandate the chips in all cell phones. The wireless industry is very skeptical. It sees no need to move the idea forward, mainly because it doesn't see the demand coming from consumers. And, carriers such as AT&T and Verizon didn't even attend the congressional roundtable.

The Harris survey is part of an NAB effort to educate the public, and perhaps, politicians about the chip, which is already in some cell phones, although it's doubtful consumers that own phones with the chip even know it. The survey was conducted online in April and early May of this year and included about 4,400 participants. A 2010 survey, which the recent study is compared to, included about 2,600 adults. 70% of the 2012 respondents say it's important they have a cell phone chip in their phone during an emergency. Although it's a high percentage, that number is down from 73% in 2010.

Another question is probably the real reason broadcasters want to be on the phone. After verifying, in the survey, that 85% of the respondents either always or usually have the cell phone with them, another 78% say they would pay a one-time .30 fee so they could listen to radio on their phones without using their data plans. At the end of the day, it sounds like broadcasters just want to have a piece of that real estate just like Pandora and Slacker and TuneIn etc want a piece of the automotive dashboard real estate.

And finally, one of the more interesting statistics from this survey was the answer to the following question: How often, or at all, do you listen to your one of your local radio stations? 24% said all the time, 33% said frequently and 21% said sometimes for a total of 78% (the same as in 2010). That's a far cry from the number Arbitron consistently touts which is in the high 90's. In March Arbitron reported a RADAR survey of 395,000 resulted in a 241 million people - or 93% - who listen to radio.  It just goes to show if you survey enough people and ask them slightly different questions, mix up the age groups a little bit, you are guaranteed to get different results.

Take a look at the NAB/Harris Study HERE
E-mail me your comments directly or leave them down below.

(5/10/2012 4:31:39 PM)
FM chips in smart phones are okay. But why no effort to include AM?

- Rick Crandall
(5/9/2012 4:01:48 PM)
Waytago, Ed. Stick a wasp in a jar; shake it well and then lift the lid.

Radio on the personal de-vice!? I'm thinkin': E-ssential! The same competitiveness still applies. Programming wins listenership.

Now, because of increased bandwidth or other compression technologies becoming available and/or if streaming data gets to be so cheap as to be inconsequential, then there was no problem after all.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(5/9/2012 12:17:06 PM)
I do not presently know where my battery powered radio is... but I do know where my cell phone is. Having a FM chip means I would always have access to radio in an emergency. Additionally, I can charge my phone in the car. So yes, I would like a FM chip in my next phone.

- mike
(5/9/2012 12:08:41 PM)
here we go again! my android phone has the FM chip, i even loaded the app required to get it to work. It requires earbuds (antenna) and multiple steps to get it working.
claim all the listeners and public service you want, this is dead on arrival.
no cell phone user wants to listen to emergency when they can surf to the news page / government / emergency site, text and crowd source their information.

radio wins ONLY with business messages.

- rick dorey
(5/9/2012 11:09:27 AM)
From what I've heard, the antenna for an AM chip would be too large to fit in a smart phone.

I believe that most "civilians" don't care if they've got a radio in their phones or not, and probably don't even think about it.

Broadcasters want to have their product included in smart phones for a larger reach so they can bill just a little more (and the article is right when it says that having a radio in your phone is great for emergencies).

The phone companies hate the idea of a broadcast receiver in their sets because of the revenue they would lose from streaming data.

It all comes down to money. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground here, and I doubt the situation will change unless: a. there is a huge ground-swell of consumers that clamor for it, (unlikely) or b. the radio industry comes up with a way to help keep the phone companies from losing revenue, perhaps by paying a fee. (Also unlikely.)

- Scott Gilbert

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