Pilot Declares Q2 to Be a Record for FM Chip Activation

Also, the iPhone’s decline in popularity is another bright spot in the report
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NAB’s tech arm, Pilot, reports “a record number” of smartphones with enabled FM chips were sold in the U.S. during Q2.

The top 70% of the best-selling devices, offered by at least one carrier with the chip enabled, sold in that period, totaling 12.7 million smartphones. That amounts to about “46% of the total” top models, according to a blog written by Skip Pizzi. These top devices usually account for 20–25 different smartphone models.

That’s also the most smartphones sold in Q2 since Pilot began to track the sales of smartphones in 2012.

With Verizon’s decision to activate FM chips for the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, it is the first time a widely popular device was available with NextRadio compatibility across all four major U.S. carriers.

Another bright spot in the report was the decline in popularity of the Apple iPhone, which represented about 38% of the best-sellers, demonstrating Android’s rise in popularity. That’s good news for NextRadio, since Apple is the only manufacturer that has consistently refused to activate the FM chip since it was added to devices in 2009.

But a potentially concerning trend is the removal of the 3.5 mm headphone connector from some iOS and Android devices. Because majority of FM-enabled smartphones use wired headphones as the antenna for FM reception, this could be a hitch in the progression of FM activation. However, Tagstation President Paul Brenner has consistently indicated that he does not consider this to be a problem.

Another change that Pizzi says Pilot will monitor is the inclusion of smartphone “connectivity chips” that have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth transceivers — but no FM. However, Q2 data shows the sales of phones with these chips has dropped to below 5% of total sales.