How-To; FM Radio

Play Ball! But what if I want to listen to the radio?
Play Ball! But what if I want to listen to the radio?

I’ve had my Q10 for about a year, and a Z30 for about 9 months. As you probably know, they both have a built-in FM radio receiver, something I assume is a hardware feature, but also a function of the OS. I had heard of the radio a while back, but more or less forgotten about it until a few weeks ago when I wanted to listen to a Baltimore Orioles’ Grapefruit League (American League Spring Training) game. My normal go-to would be Major League Baseball’s (MLB) At Bat app, which allows you to listen to the local radio broadcast over WiFi while getting a nice graphical depiction of what’s going on on the field, including the “box score,” which gives you more detail about what each player has done, and the play by play detail. (If you love baseball, MLB At Bat is a necessary app; it’s about $15 per season and you need to get the current version each year, but it’s a necessity, so you’ll gladly pay for it.) However, MLB At Bat does not work during Spring Training, possibly due to licensing restrictions of broadcast rights, or for some other reason.

FM Radio on the Z30
FM Radio on the Z30

In any event, a few weeks ago, I was going to meet a couple guys for a cigar and wanted to listen to the game. I brought my Q10 and a pair of Skull Candies, tuned the radio to 105.7, our local Orioles station, and turned it on. It was great to listen to Fred Manfra and Joe Angel ply their craft while sitting on the deck of my brother’s house enjoying a fine stogie. Fred and Joe are two of the best radio announcers in the league and really make the game come alive. I hung the Skull Candies from the lattice on his deck, got great reception, and was able to enjoy the game over the ample speaker of my Q10.

Older Grundig Porsche Design Radio
Older Grundig Porsche Design Radio

Today, we had our season home opener and it occurred to me that I could listen to Fred and Joe on the radio while sitting in Camden Yards, enjoying the game. I used to carry a small, Porsche Design Grundig radio in the side pocket of my cargo pants for just this purpose, but let’s face it, even though it’s a nicely designed radio, it’s still a pain to lug it around. Plus, you have to sort of balance it on your leg during the game, which is an even bigger pain. Per my normal routine, I parked in a garage in Harbor East and walked over to the park. I immediately put my Skull Candies in and turned on the pre-game coverage during my walk. I got great reception and was able to get plenty of volume to listen over the crowd as I got closer to the stadium. Once I got to my seat, I left the earbuds in throughout the game and was able to listen to the play by play from my seat. At times, it seemed I needed to adjust the wire of my ear buds in order to maintain my reception, but other than that, I really enjoyed the convenience. I had to explain to an Android and iOS user that my reception wasn’t based on any cell or WiFi signal, which took a moment, and they seemed impressed. I told them my Q10 had a FM radio receiver in it, which I assume is a hardware and software feature.

Select "Radio" from your native music app.
Select “Radio” from your native music app.

Here is how to use the FM radio on your Q5, Q10, Classic, Passport, Z3, or Z30. Open up your native music app, hit the menu button in the lower left hand corner and select “Radio,” which I believe will be at the bottom of the list. You will need a set of earphones in order to use the feature, as the wire acts as an antenna. (I have confirmation that a Bluetooth device attached to your phone through the headphone jack and connected to Bluetooth headphones will also work in places with a strong FM signal.) If you have not plugged in your headphones, you will be prompted to do so at this time.

Current stations that appear by default in my area. (I added 105.7)
Current stations that appear by default in my area. (I added 105.7)

After plugging in your earbuds, you will be presented with some preset stations based on your location. The radio automatically scans for these presets upon start up. It’s true that you do not need a WiFi or cellular connection to use the radio, but if your network connection is set off, you will be prompted to turn the network connection back on before you can use the radio. After you select your station, you can then turn off your network connectivity if you wish. My understanding is the radio will work even if you are in a place with no cellular network connectivity, it just requires this feature to be on momentarily before selecting your station. There’s some type of check the OS performs based on your network connectivity being turned on, that lets it know what region you’re in or something. Maybe someone can elucidate this further in the comments.

Press "Tune To" and then scroll to the station number you want.
Press “Tune To” and then scroll to the station number you want.

There are two ways to select a station: 1) by choosing from the pre-set list, and 2) by tuning your receiver manually to the desired station. 105.7 The Fan is my local baseball station and it wasn’t listed so I used the tuner. I found it and made it a favorite so it shows up in my list when I activate the radio. One caveat is if you select the menu on the lower right hand corner, you have the option to re-scan for radio stations. This feature could come in handy if you are moving out of range of the previous pre-set station list. Once you find the station you want, adjust your earbuds to get the best signal, set the volume, and you’re off to the races!

Bottom line!? The FM radio feature may not be the most earth shattering feature on a mobile OS, but it can definitely come in handy. It’s likely just another feature many of us take for granted, and is it really a shock that it’s built into the most robust, secure, efficient mobile OS on the market? Don’t forget about the FM radio on your phone… it may come in handy sometime!

james pisano

RIM/BB fan since 2009. Wouldn’t consider entrusting my career, life or privacy to another platform. Foremost, I am a student of life. Some likes: longboarding, nature, Baltimore Orioles, technology, driving, music, reading and Taoism. Politically independent.

  • Trev

    I use the FM radio all the time when I’m at camp where there is no (or minimal) cell reception. Plus, having it connected to my Bose Soundlink (which doesn’t have an FM tuner) gives me plenty of battery life and great sound quality whether I’m inside playing poker or outside around the campfire.

    • Blackjack

      Yes! I use the Bose Soundlink as well, plugged into the auxiliary port. In fact I use two of them, with an adaptor to feed the left channel into one and the right into the other for stereo. Can’t do that with bluetooth unfortunately so it is wired through the headphone jack, but that gives the bonus of using the wires as an antenna.

      Bose Soundlink is an amazing sounding distortion free speaker … awesome for its size and portability

      • Very clever configuration BJ!

      • Trev

        That’s a really good idea! I’m sure the Soundlink sounds phenomenal in stereo* (*term used quite loosely).

  • Blackjack

    Well done!

    I love my FM radio just for the audio quality through my Bose Quiet Comfort headphones.
    It is pure analog without using data and it doesn’t have the compression that normally takes place on streamed music from sources like tune in radio and there is never buffering, stalling or drop outs.

    The quality makes you feel like you’re in the same room as the musicians. Almost a 3D quality when compared with compressed digital.

  • web99

    Great article James. I have only recently started using the FM radio feature on my Passport and it is very convenient. I use it along with my Bose bluetooth headset and the sound quality is excellent.

  • TRUENORTH

    You are right BJ. That BOSE speaker unit is astonishingly good. Even ears that have been . . .. . ah . . . . . ‘age modified’ appreciate their performance. Taking mine on a cruise next week. I am sure that the neighbours will appreciate them too!!

  • Anthony

    You don’t even need a SIM card for the radio to work. You only need to turn on “Location” or “Mobile Network”. Either one will id your location.

    I believe the FM receiver is in the main chip, the processor.

    I cut-off the ear-buds from an old pair and use it as an antenna. One feature that’s still missing is playing the radio through a bluetooth speaker…why? locco_smiley_7

    • That’s true Anthony. I noticed that too. I’m not sure why. I would use my BBRY Mini Bluetooth speaker at times, but the only options are to play through the headphones or the speaker. I am also curious why this is.

  • bambinoitaliano

    I believe any cable you plug in will receive the radio signal. Sometimes, I plug into my Harmon Kardon Soundsticks speakers, it works just the same. To me the FM radio is an underrated feature on BB10.

  • Canuckvoip

    Love the FM radio! Great post James!

  • SipoKapumba

    I wonder why the Z10 was built without the hardware for an FM radio. I am eternally saddened by this, especially that in my city, Lusaka, in Zambia, FM rules for radio reception. Even though a number of radio stations stream on the internet, their streams are not always there.

    • Sipo – I don’t know either. One good thing is that it appears to be a feature included on every device since the Z10, so when you’re ready to upgrade, you will have it.

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