Almost as long as there have been smartphones, FM chips have been a hot topic. It has been a long, slow process to get these devices installed, and still later, activated in mobile devices. And there are still holdouts. As reported by Radio World last June, NextRadio has been a strong advocate of FM chip activation, noting that FM radio may be the only source of emergency information in times of crisis. That being said, a new product scheduled to debut at the upcoming NAB Show may make the chip/no chip debate a moot point.
Blackloud says that its AF1 and CF1 earphones, launching in Las Vegas next month, will provide anyone access to FM radio using their existing smartphones or tablets without needing major phone vendors to unlock the FM chip within those devices.
The AF1 buds are designed for iPhones and iPads using the Lightning interface while CF1 are designed for devices with Type-C interfaces and do not need to have Wi-Fi or LTE coverage to listen to FM radio stations. Blackloud says that the headsets will also support telephony sessions, VoIP sessions, video conference sessions, as well as audio playback using any app.
The secret to FM reception is that AF1 and CF1 come with their own RF reception chip. The FSi4705 FM/RDS receiver digital tuner IC from Silicon Labs is in a 3 x 3 mm, 20-pin QFN package, and is located inside the “control box” or case enclosure located on the wire/lanyard portion of the headset. There are three buttons on the control box: volume up (+), volume down (–), pause/play.
David Grant, director of marketing for Blackloud partner Tempo Semiconductor said, “Finally, the consumer doesn’t have to worry if their model phone has an integrated FM chip that has also been activated by their carrier. They can take the matter of wanting to stay informed via FM radio into their own hands — all without having to rely on Wi-Fi/LTE coverage, use any mobile data, or run through their battery as quickly.”