: Detractors and owners alike have complained for years about the iPod's lack of integrated FM, especially since so many other players have the feature. The new Apple iPod Radio Remote offers a good compromise by taking a significantly different approach than third-party add-ons like the Griffin iFM. Just looking at it, you'd never know it had a tuner—the 0.5-ounce remote measures just 1.3 by 0.3 by 1.0 inches, making it slightly smaller than the original iPod remote. Most notably, it works with the current crop of iPods and uses the players' own screens.
If you really need your FM radio fix and have a video iPod or nano, this is the only game in town, at least for now. The iFM uses an adapter that new iPods lack, making the tuner incompatible with the current generation of Apple's player. (The Radio Remote has a very compact connector that's about half the size of the one on a standard iPod sync cable.)
The remote's control layout, which is identical to that of the iPod Shuffle, has volume, track skip, and play/pause buttons as well as a hold switch on top. Your headphones plug into the standard headphone jack. The back of the remote is a silver clip that lets you attach the device to your clothing.
When you hook the remote to your iPod (make sure you've got the latest firmware from Apple's site), a Radio option suddenly appears in the main menu. Click on it, and you'll see the interface, which consists of two windows. The top one shows the station. Click on the iPod's center select button and the bottom window displays an analog-style radio dial. Click on it again, and you'll see any RDS (Radio Data System) information the station is broadcasting—usually either call letters or artist/song information. A third click brings you to the volume control. In addition to controlling radio and music playback, you can use the remote to operate slide shows and skip pictures, though we're not sure how useful that might be, since you'd have to have the player out of your pocket to look at the screen anyway.
You can create a vast number of station presets (we hit 45 before giving up) simply by tuning to a station and then holding the iPod's select button. Deleting presets is equally easy: Go to the one you want to remove and hold the select button until the preset indicator (a little triangle above the station frequency) disappears. To scan to the next available station, just hold down one of the remote's track-skip buttons.
We tested the reception in various areas of New York City, and got excellent results, for the most part. We used the Radio Remote while it was buried in a jacket pocket and while it was clipped to the outside of our clothing, and saw virtually no difference in performance. The roughly 34.5-inch cable was long enough for either pocket or backpack use. If your headphones cable is already fairly long, however, you may find all the cabling a bit much. To compensate, the cable on the earbuds that ship with the remote is slightly shorter than the standard ones that ship with iPods itself. And if the headphone cable plus the cable for the remote is too long overall, you can simply plug your headphones into the iPod's built-in headphone jack instead of the one on the remote. We found this the best combination for avoiding tangles and snags.
The remote couldn't be easier to use, and it's very compact. Our only wishes for improvement are a black model (it's currently available only in white) and backwards-compatibility with older iPods. For $49, the iPod Radio Remote is not a bad deal, considering that the original remote cost $39 when purchased separately. Since it doesn't seem like Apple will ever build an FM tuner into the iPod itself, this is the next best thing.