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If you own an Android phone, there’s a good chance you might be missing out on one of the coolest features around—a built-in portable FM radio. Although not every Android phone includes an FM radio by default, many do, both in the US and around the world. FM radios are typically included in case of emergency, but it also allows customers to stream music without using data. At first glance, you would think that listening to radio without a network connection on your phone wasn’t possible. After all, if you don’t have data, you don’t have streaming. Thankfully, many phones—primarily Android phones, since Apple no longer includes FM radios in their devices, and even older phones didn’t allow you to use them—are capable of reaching out to FM stations near you.
The downside of trying to listen to radio without data is that not all networks enable the FM chip within their phones. There’s no good way to see if your phone supports FM radio transmissions without just testing an app, but thankfully, our top pick lets you do just that. Here’s our favorite radio apps that, some of which, unfortunately, do require WiFi to use.
The easiest way to find out whether or not your phone is able to receive FM radio broadcasts without relying on streaming over the web is to download NextRadio, a fantastic and free radio app for your phone. As with all FM radio apps, NextRadio will require earbuds to properly receive a broadcast signal, and the app won’t work if your phone doesn’t have the necessary hardware to pick up. If you do, all you’ll need is a stereo cable or a headphone cable to act as an antenna, and you’ll be able to stream from any of your surrounding FM radios, live and for free.
The app itself features a solid design, though it’s a bit dated compared to some of the newer apps that have rolled out on Android in the last few years. Thankfully, the most important tool—being able to quickly sort through channels—works wonders here, so you won’t have to worry about being unable to find your favorite rock or pop station within the app.
If there’s one reason to switch away from NextRadio, it’s actually that the app is no longer in active development. NextRadio was originally designed to work as both an FM receiver app and as an online streaming service, but at the start of 2019, the app switched back to only offering FM radio and hasn’t been updated since. The service’s website has also gone offline, so if the app doesn’t work with your specific phone, it likely never will.
Still, it’s one of the better reviving apps you’ll find today, and it remains our top pick for that very reason.
It seems like NextRadio could truly shut down at any moment, so if that happens and you’re looking for the next big FM receiver app, Radio FM is your best bet. Here’s the issue with almost any other radio app on Android: it’s genuinely tough to find an app that unlocks your FM radio outside of NextRadio. Some phones, like Motorola, have their own options for streaming FM radio, but generally speaking, NextRadio is the only third-party app that uses the actual FM radio in your phone. That means that some devices, especially newer ones, aren’t capable of taking advantage of NextRadio’s streams.
Thankfully, you aren’t totally out of luck just yet. Radio FM is a great alternative to NextRadio, albeit one that requires WiFi. If you’re having trouble getting your phone to work properly with your FM radio, we suggest taking a look at Radio FM. From its clean interface to its wide variety of settings and stations, it’s one of the best ways to stream music online.
TuneIn Radio mixes both streaming and FM radio station broadcasts to give you a very wide breadth of content. As with Radio FM, you’re going to be streamign over the web, not OTA, but that helps to give you full access to stations you wouldn’t be able to receive otherwise. TuneIn also allows you to manage how much data the app uses over time within the settings of the app, so you don’t have to worry about draining your battery and running your phone bill up.
It’s unfortunate that so many apps on Android advertise themselves as able to play FM radio only to turn around and force you to stream online, but if you’re going to have to go online anyway, it’s impossible to beat just how good Tune In is. Trusted by millions of users around the world, TuneIn lets you listen to your favorite stations from around the world, regardless of your location. It’s a great app, and one of the most popular on the planet, but you’ll need WiFi to use it.
While TuneIn is one of the most popular FM receivers online today, Simple Radio might be an even better pick—especially if you’re looking for an app with a better design than what we’ve seen from NextRadio. Simple Radio is another app that lets you listen to FM radio streams. The app is simple to use and offers access to almost 50,000 radio stations across the world, but our favorite feature is the clean interface, which really helps you to find your favorite music in the app.
The interface is simple and easy to navigate and works well. Stations are easy to find and will populate depending on your location. Then just select and begin listening. The Simple Radio is free and ad supported and has in-app purchases but they aren’t intrusive.
iHeartRadio has to be one of the largest radio stations in the world and its good news indeed that they still remember FM broadcasts as well as offer streaming. The app is clear and simple to use and has FM options as well as internet radio stations. There are hundreds to choose from depending on where you live and quality is very good.
The app isn’t without its bugs though so be aware. It can crash, lose stations and stutter but is otherwise a solid option.
If you don’t see an app that should be here, let us know what it is