RDS on the Android Headunits

RDS is the Radio Data System and is a useful feature found in the FM Radio service

RDS and FM

Many FM radios include the option of RDS – the Radio Data System. This RDS feature brings extra information to the radio programs over voice or music production. These extra features are often overlooked as being anything other than standard. The Time display is most likely to be an RDS feature. The Program information on an FM service will also highly likely be supplied as a stream from the RDS part of the FM signal.

RDS is only available on FM frequencies. It is not to be confused with DAB Radio; even though the features look similar, they require different hardware.

RDS Features

AF – Alternative Frequency automatically allows the radio to re-tune to the same station on a different frequency. Ideal for traveling while tuned to a national radio service.

CT – Time and Date. A fundamental and often overlooked feature of RDS is time. With an internet-connected Android headunit, the time usually comes from the data connection (NTP). The advantage of RDS Time is that Data is not required, and all the Date and Time information is sent over the FM signal.

EON – Extended Other Networks was an enhanced feature giving the radio more control to switch to a different radio station automatically. The primary use of this automatic radio station changing was to interrupt the current program, catch the local traffic reports on a different radio station and switch back to the original radio show. With the Sat Nav feature, internet-connected google maps, and traffic re-routing features of the Android headunits, EON becomes less useful than it once was.

PTY (Program Type), PS (Program Service Name), and PI (Program Information) help identify the station name and the genre of music, and PS and program service information all help to show helpful information about the service being used.

Android Headunits and RDS

With the RDS features of the FM service being accepted as a basic standard, it is surprising and often disappointing to find that RDS features are missing from the Android Headunit FM screen. Not all the headunits are created equally, and this common omission leads people to find the solutions to missing RDS information. Could there be a software update to add RDS? Is RDS FM switched off in the hidden, password-protected menus? How can RDS be enabled?

Unfortunately, the FM chip used in the Android headunit is the key to RDS compatibility. If the integrated FM chip of silicon circuitry is not RDS compatible, no software or menu options will fix it.

FM Chips

Not all FM chips can handle the RDS function. Lower-cost Android headunits are made with the cheapest components, and cheaper, less-featured FM chips make RDS one of the cost-cutting casualties.

Adding RDS

It is not possible to add RDS to an Android headunit that doesn’t have that feature. It is much more sensible to add the RDS feature to your list of necessary features before purchase and ensure the sales listing includes the ‘RDS option (YES)’ before clicking the buy button.

RDS not working

If your Android head unit was sold to you as having the FM RDS option and it doesn’t work, check you are actually of FM and not LW, AM, or even DAB+. RDS is only available on FM, and the radio station has to transmit RDS signals. The RDS system is a ‘worldwide’ standard, but you must be in an FM area to get the FM RDS information. But if other radios can pick up the RDS and your Android headunit doesn’t, you may have bought yourself a fake. Contact the vendor to explain RDS feature is missing and screenshot the sales page that says it is available. You are then in the typical vendor: customer disagreement. Involve the selling platform if the vendor is unhelpful.

RDS Alternative

If RDS is not working, you may have an alternative solution. This comes in the shape of a USB stick with an aerial. This is the DAB radio adaptor. DAB+ is a digital radio service with features similar to the FM RDS. DAB+ is not as well adapted as FM RDS, but if you are in a DAB+ area, this could be your solution RDS not working on your Android Headunit.

Android guy who loves his android head units as much as he loves his cherry pie.

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