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Sprint Updates ’60s Pocket Radio

Overland Park, Kan. — The six-transistor pocket radio of the early 1960s is going high-tech with Sprint’s launch of the NextRadio interactive radio app on select Sprint smartphones equipped with an analog FM-radio chip.

Sprint is the first carrier to offer the NextRadio app on smartphones.

The FM chip, said to consume about three times less battery life than streaming-music applications, is already available in the HTC One and HTC Evo 4G LTE. The free NextRadio app will come preloaded on the HTC One, and subscribers who already own an HTC One or HTC Evo 4G LTE can download the app for free through Google Play at no charge.

The chip and app will appear “on a broad range of Sprint smartphone devices during the next several years,” Sprint said.

The NextRadio app features an onscreen guide that lets users browse local stations by genre or frequency. The guide includes radio station logos, slogans and programming descriptions. Traditionalists can select stations through a traditional tuner interface. Users can also set favorites and view recently played stations.

Via a cellular connection, the app displays the album art of the song that’s playing, and it displays song and show details. From the app, users can purchase the song that is playing, and they can call or text the stations that they’re playing to provide feedback.

The FM chip goes into action when a headset or speaker wire is plugged into the phone’s 3.5mm stereo audio jack. The headset wire serves as the FM chip’s antenna.

More than 1,500 stations have signed up with TagStation, a Cloud-based service, to have their branding images, call letters, station name, slogan and genre data appear in the NextRadio app at no cost to broadcasters, broadcast group Emmis Communications said. The company said it expects “thousands more” stations to participate in the free service following the handset launch.

Broadcast groups such as Beasley, CBS Radio, Entercom, Greater Media and Hubbard have registered with TagStation to offer additional services to NextRadio users. The services include display of album art and artist information, listener-feedback capabilities, song-purchasing capabilities, enhanced advertising options and social integration, Emmis said.

To promote the HTC One and the app, Sprint will run a promotion Aug. 16-30 offering a free HTC One with the purchase of another HTC One at $199. The promotion applies to all three color options: silver, black and red, the latter of which is a new color option becoming available Aug. 16.