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RIP iPod Nano and FM Radio

Apple Kills Off Its First and Only FM Radio

Apple recently announced the end for two more of its iPod music player models, the iPod Shuffle and the iPod Nano. The cancellation of the latter also eliminates Apple’s first, and only, radio receiver.

While the iPod Touch remains in production, it’s really just an iPhone without a cellular phone function. Nice as it is, as with an iPhone, the only radio stations you can hear with an iPod Touch are those that stream over the internet. For all the rumors that iPhones have a latent, unactivated FM receiver hidden inside, no evidence of it has ever come to light. This, despite the radio industry’s persistent efforts to get wireless carriers just to activate the receivers already inside of many Android phones, or cajole device makers (or the FCC) to include radios across the board.

Frankly, I haven’t much considered the iPod Nano since its radio feature was first announced nearly eight years ago. While I was intrigued by Apple’s relatively innovative implementation, which included a “live pause” and PVR-like rewind function, I was never moved to actually buy one.

Seems the rest of my audio playback needs have been satisfied by my smartphone. So, instead of dropping $150 on a Nano, if I want to hear a radio I just drop a $15 portable into my bag. I guess that makes me part of the problem.

Of course, what I really want is an FM receiver inside my iPhone. Sure, I could get any number of Android phones that have a radio—and cost less to boot&mdashbut I prefer iOS and radio reception is not a deciding factor, even for a nerd like me.

Only a decade ago I didn’t think twice about carrying two different devices: a flip-phone for calls and texts, and a minidisc player for music on the go. That minidisc player even had an FM radio, and this set-up didn’t feel inconvenient at all. (In the pre-cellphone era my cassette walkmen usually had a radio, too.)

But a decade of smartphone use spoiled me with the joy of a single do-it-all (except terrestrial radio) device. Even though I might enjoy the higher resolution sound capabilities of today’s new breed digital audio players, the price of schlepping two gadgets is more than I want to pay.

Without a doubt, Apple’s cancellation of the iPod Nano (and Shuffle) has much more to do with getting out of the inexpensive MP3 player market than with getting out of the radio business. If you’re still in the market for a portable audio player it’s not hard to find one that also includes a radio, typically for a fraction of the Nano’s retail price. Now, these cheaper players won’t have the Nano’s cool pause and rewind functions, nor the Apple cache, but due to their cheapness you can also subject them to situations where you might not want to risk damaging your smartphone or iPod.

Unless the FCC is somehow convinced to make FM radios mandatory in smartphones (a very long shot) the Nano will go down as Apple’s first and only FM radio receiver.


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