Not that many smartphones or cell phones have built-in FM antennas, although the recently released Droid X does (the iPhone 4 does not). This may become a mandatory feature, however, if a proposed way to settle the long-running dispute between the record and radio industries comes to pass.
The long-standing issue is about royalties to musicians. Although radio stations have long paid royalties to songwriters, they have not done so to musicians. On the other hand, satellite radio stations do pay artists, songwriters, and music labels, too.
The idea of implementing FM radios in all cell phones would be to offset the cost of any additional royalty payments by giving broadcasters a wider audience. Of course, anyone playing with FM radio on a cell phone that currently supports it will note that you have to plug in a wired headset for it to work. As we eschew wired headsets, we typically just use a smartphone app instead.
The requirement to include an FM antenna would, of course, bridge the gap for non-smartphones. It would also, proponents say, increase the usefulness of cell phones, as they could still listen to FM emergency broadcasts if cell towers went down during a disaster of some sort.
However, cell phone manufacturers aren’t too keen on the idea. Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro said, “Forced inclusion of an additional antenna, processor and radio receiver will compromise features that consumers truly desire, such as long battery life and light weight, reducing product performance, mandating inclusion of features consumers don’t want.”
He left out additional cost to the manufacturers, which is probably a primary reason for the objection. The CEA did also say that FM radio was “backward looking,” and shouldn’t be mandated in cutting-edge handheld devices.
Backward-looking? All this time, we thought the FM radio in the Droid X, although not something we use, was still a positive bullet point in the feature fight with the iPhone 4. At any rate, the fight isn’t over, by any means.