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Microsoft Lops Off Mobile FM Radio App

App was part of the company’s Windows 10 Mobile phone operating system

Microsoft has opted to remove the free FM Radio app from the latest version of its Windows 10 Mobile phone operating system. Some radio industry observers use words like “disappointing” and “short-sighted” in reacting to the development but cautioned against reading too much into it.

Third-party apps that use FM radio will continue to operate on the Windows 10 Mobile phone operating system, as well as apps like Pandora and iHeartRadio.

A Microsoft spokesman told Radio World, “Due to decreased usage, FM Radio was removed in a recent Windows 10 Mobile build released to Windows Insiders, and will likely be removed for general customers in a future update.” The Windows Insider program allows users to sign up for early “builds” of the Windows operating system previously only accessible to developers.

Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters, noted that Microsoft is only removing the FM app. “The FM chip and radio functionality still remains in the Windows 10 Mobile phone. We believe this action was driven by a likely recognition that third-party apps can provide a superior user experience.”

Last week, MSPoweruser, a tech blog focused on all things Microsoft, wrote that the manufacturer may be planning to go more upmarket with its Windows phones and speculated that FM radio just didn’t fit that bill. “It also didn’t help that the other two mobile OSes don’t have built in FM radio apps out of the box either,” Associate Editor Michael Allison wrote.

According to a Microsoft instruction page, users of Windows 10 Mobile could listen to FM stations by plugging in wired headphones to serve as the antenna, swipe to the All apps list and select FM Radio. Tuning was by swiping left/right, selecting Previous/Next or dragging a finger over station frequencies.

The Microsoft FM Radio app has proven handy and useful, especially in cases of emergency, some proponents say. Radio blogger and “futurologist” James Cridland said, “It’s disappointing to see Microsoft remove the FM Radio app from Windows Mobile. For many people — particularly those living in Latin America, India or other countries — this’ll make an already unpopular mobile OS even less desirable.”

Cridland worried that some individuals might take this move as some kind of “validation” of the idea that consumers are falling out of love with radio. “And that would be a shame, because it’s wrong,” he said. “In most parts of the world, FM reception is seen as a benefit for both mobile operators and listeners alike. And, crucially, [it] means that consumers have another reason to pick up their mobile phone and do things with it — because radio’s a multitasking medium and can be enjoyed while you, for example, read Facebook.”

U.S. consumers may have different consumption patterns than those in other countries, Cridland said, but “given that FM reception comes free with the Bluetooth chip in the phone, it seems a bit short-sighted to remove an app that works everywhere and that consumers do want.” He mentioned the NextRadio app on Android phones.

However, FM reception may not be as important on mobile as the industry thinks it is, Cridland said. “To me, you’re trying to marry the most interactive device in your possession with a medium designed to be consumed while you do something else. So I’m not convinced that the FM chip is the white knight that the radio industry believes it to be.

“But it seems senseless — given it costs nothing — to take it away.”