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NextRadio brings local FM to smartphones

HTC android phone featuring the NextRadio app.
courtesy of NextRadio and TagStation.

Over-the-air FM radio is coming to a smartphone near you!

Manufacturers, wireless providers and broadcasters have teamed up to create NextRadio, a free app that powers an FM tuner that's built into many android phones.

Unlike streaming and webcasting, NextRadio works independently from a tiny embedded FM chip, plus it allows listeners to interact with songs, stations and even commercials once broadband wireless is added.

NextRadio is a dream come true for broadcasters, who have been pushing for embedded FM chips on smartphones to help local radio stay competitive in a marketplace teeming with streamed entertainment.

The smartphone, supporters say, can become the Walkman of the digital age.

National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is promoting NextRadio with a website called RadioRocksMyPhone.com.

Emmis Communications, a national corporation and prime backer of NextRadio, partnered with Sprint Wireless to develop and market the concept beginning in 2013.

Since then, the partnership has more than 1500 stations signed up and using the powerful “TagStation” software that's the backbone of the system.

So far, NextRadio firmware is available on HTC, Blackberry and Samsung smartphones, and is also expected on Windows phones in the future. See a list of compatible phones here.

A NextRadio tie-in to car radios is expected at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, taking place this month in Las Vegas.

At the CES convention, Emmis will offer an in-car demo of a companion app “that visualizes over-the-air FM and HD Radio” in the dashboard.

It’s being called a companion app because it can be used either with a smartphone or directly with a car’s "infotainment" system, says Emmis CEO Paul Brenner.

A full video demonstration of NextRadio can be seen here.