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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 (s aapl) 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?

17 Responses to “Rumor Has It: Apple Developing Radio App for iPhone and iPod touch”

  1. I would be very happy to have a radio in my iPhone. I listened to radio a lot. But on the other hand, I doubt tagging works for me as it would be a local Chinese radio station and I don’t think it has anyway of digital tagging its radio songs

    But I do look forward to this app a lot !! :)

  2. My girlfriend’s father is a postman and believe me, there is an army of postal service employees who would love to mix up podcasts with traditional terrestrial radio. I’d also be willing to bet that, if marketed properly, they would also be receptive to those Nike+ ped-counters in their boots.

    In fact, we’re getting him one of the new Nanos for those exact features.

  3. This article and the 9to5Mac one cited mention that existing iPhone models have had this hidden functionality for a while. Does this mean that the 3G, or even the original model, has it? I, like walkerp, listen to the CBC a lot, and it would also be nice to listen to local traffic before I get in the car and immediately commit to a route home. There are, of course, ways to do both of these without a Radio app, but it would be a convenient and welcome addition, just like the Remote.

    • Exactly! I’d like to have simple radio. I’m mostly NPR listener and I don’t particularly care about song recognition. Also, it’s a *simple* old technology. I’ve been upset with Apple for not making it available because it seems like they just don’t want to. FM radio was the single most wanted feature on ipods for a long time.

  4. Lack of a radio is a feature that stops me moving to iphone. I use a Nokia N82, really cool phone, and i use the radio on the way to and from work each day. The other item this phone has is a fab 5mp camera with xeon flash. I have had this phone for 1.7+ years and normally I have a new one every few months, but it has everything EXCEPT the interface. S60 is dreadful. I have played with a SE Satio and the interface is as bad. The iPhones interface is the dogs…, so if they release an iPhone app I will be abel to move.

  5. An FM radio would be a wonderful addition as long as no other feature was compromised. I think what some may be missing is that this would be an additional feature that doesn’t exclude any current capability. I have a small FM radio that I travel with so I can find out about the events occurring at my destination. Although I have plenty of podcasts and music, only local radio can inform me of local events.

  6. I have long desired a reliable radio on my iPod. Here in Canada, the CBC is an excellent broadcaster (for the most part) and many homes just leave it running all day. So while I can download most of their shows via podcast (and I am a big consumer of podcasts as well), it’s nice to have the live broadcast.

  7. Phew – just re-read that and figure I could put the word ‘phone’ in a bit more often. 10 times is perhaps a bit excessive (and counting it is a bit anal, lol). Still, happy to share it with you all ;)

  8. The only time I listen to my iphone in ipod mode is when cycling and occasionally in the car with an FM transmitter for the in-car stereo. I wouldn’t ever listen to radio on my phone – not because I’m against it particularly, just that the only time I listen to the radio is in the car, and the in-car stereo is a much better way of listening to radio than on my iphone then transmitting it (via radio) to my stereo.

    I don’t know anybody who listens to the radio on their phone. It was good back in the days of ‘feature phones’ where you couldn’t store reasonable amounts of your own music on the phone due to storage limitations, and I knew people who did it then, but no-one now.

    Having said that, I (rather contrarily) expect it on the iPhone since it’s one of those features that’s nearly always on phones nowadays and I hate to think of my iPhone 3GS as technologically inferior to any other phone on the market. It’s just I would never use it, lol.

  9. I listen to the radio a lot and would use this feature daily. The particular shows I listen to are mainly for the DJ / presenter and rarely for the music – that’s what an iPod is for.

    Michael makes a good point about Shazam. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple acquire this at some point in the future, similar to Coverflow.

  10. Personally, I hate the radio. It is never what I want to listen to and I’m constantly switching stations. I can listen to the music that I like, without commercials or interruptions from mindless DJ’s with quips like “Hey guys the next song I have coming up for you is a real winner.” on my Ipod or on CDs. The only thing I might want to listen to is a morning show on the way to work when my ipod is dead because I forgot to charge it. If I want to discover new music, I listen to Pandora.