Rumor Has It: Apple Developing Radio App for iPhone and iPod touch

The ZuneHD has it. The latest iPod Nano has it. Even a chunky digital watch I owned when I was seven years old had it. I’m talking FM Radio, and the latest rumors tell us Apple is working on its very own native for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

9to5Mac reports that the new app will be allowed to run in the background, and may be incorporated into the existing iPod software on the device. It will apparently feature the exact same functionality as the radio app on the iPod Nano, (such as Live Pause) with at least one notable additional capability — smart linking between songs played via the radio application and their home in the iTunes Mobile store. From the report:

For instance, if you like a song you are listening to on the radio (and that station supports tagging and you are in the US), you will be able to push a button and see the song (and all of the information around it) in the iTunes Mobile store. With another click, you’ll be able to make a purchase.

9to5Mac’s Seth Weintraub says that it is this smart linking that is creating problems for the developers, since not all radio stations in America support the crucial tagging technology upon which this feature depends.

I’d add at this point that on the global stage, radio broadcaster’s support for digital tagging is likely just as patchy. With this in mind, and if this rumor is true, Apple is faced with the problem of providing end users with an inconsistent and unpredictable experience on its ‘premium’ iPod models. If Apple truly is developing this software, mindful of its aim to ensure “It Just Works,” will it include a feature that is guaranteed not to? The implementation of song tagging on the iPod Nano is somewhat circuitous; if a song played on the radio is tagged, the user can mark that song for future review (and possibly purchase) the next time they sync the Nano to iTunes. While this might be acceptable on a Nano, I’d suggest it would be a less-than-satisfactory event on the iPhone, where users expect a more seamless and functionally rich experience.

Feature-set-aside, should this software make an appearance in the near future, the good news is that iPhone owners need not worry about meeting hardware specs. Weintraub assures us that existing iPhone and iPod Touch models have long supported FM radio, though to date, it’s a feature that has seen only limited use communicating with peripherals, such as the various Nike+ products.

I always think of radio as something of an outmoded media, today mostly useful during National Emergencies and, of course, the day our robot slaves rise against us. Feature phones have offered FM radio since forever, but I can tell you without hesitation it’s not something I ever used. No one I know (both Geeks and Normals) ever used the radio on their phones, either. So I wonder, is that indicative of most people today, or am I (and my friends) in some sort of strange, anti-radio minority? Would you use this app?

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