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Uh-oh -- the more popular iPod accessories are not FM receivers, but TRANSMITTERS!

Posted on: 02/28/2008

Recent NAB and RAB press releases have been quoting radio executives trumpeting the popularity of FM receivers for iPods, but as I’ve read them, something has been nagging at me…

And upon doing a little research today, it hit me: I believe that the far more popular devices are actually FM transmitters — in other words, devices that allow consumers to pump music from their iPod to their car stereo, so they can avoid broadcast radio!

As Gilda Radner’s character Emily Litella might say, “Oh, that’s quite different. Never mind.”

Radio Remote does exist…

In Jeff Haley’s keynote speech at the RAB conference in Atlanta earlier this month, he said (according to the transcript provided by the RAB), “Radio has always been a mobile medium. From cars to the transistor to Walkmans, it’s always been on the move. Today, it’s the MP3 Player. For Apple’s iPods, this Radio Remote accessory allows FM listening, and [is] the most popular accessory that Apple sells.”

Well, it’s true that such a product exists (pictured). However, it’s (at least currently) not in the list of best-selling iPod accessories on Apple’s website, which as of this morning showed the following:

  1. AppleCare Protection Plan – iPod touch
  2. AppleCare Protection Plan – iPod nano
  3. Apple USB Power Adapter
  4. Incase Protective Cover for iPod touch
  5. Nike + iPod Sport Kit
  6. XtremeMac InCharge Auto Charger
  7. iPod nano Armband
  8. iHome iH6 Dual-Alarm Clock Radio for iPod
  9. Belkin Sport Armband Plus for iPod nano
  10. Apple Universal Dock
  11. iHome iH6 Dual-Alarm Clock Radio for iPod
  12. Incase Protective Cover for iPod touch
  13. Incase Leather Sleeve for iPod nano (Black)

On the other hand, to be fair, this product does show up on Amazon.com this hour as the 89th most-popular iPod accessory — and the 11th most-popular of those accessories that are actually manufactured by Apple.

Hot-selling: Tuner…or transmitter?

Similarly, a NAB/Radio 2020 press release that came in yesterday quoted one of radio’s most-respected group heads as saying, “We’re not hiding from new technology, we’re driving it. One of the hottest-selling features for the iPod is an FM tuner.”

But going back to that Amazon list I mentioned a moment ago, while there was only one FM tuner in their list of top 100 best-selling iPod accessories, what appears on the list repeatedly is an assortment of a half-dozen different FM transmitters. (In case it’s not clear, these are little devices you plug into the bottom of your iPod to transmit its music to an unused frequency on your car radio, allowing you to listen to iPod music over your car stereo’s speakers.)

Amazon’s product description for Griffin Technology’s 9500-TRIPDA iTrip LCD/FM Transmitter with Dock Connector for iPod, for example, puts it this way: “It lets you avoid the hassle of bad reception and bad music on your car’s radio by transmitting your iPod’s music directly to your FM radio.”

Yikes! That’s the opposite of the point they’re trying to make.

There are lots of ways that radio can get involved in the digital revolution. This particular angle, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be a particularly promising one.

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  1. Yes, but these transmitters may be helpful to Internet radio stations. WHAV.net used to give away FM transmitters for listeners to attach to their computers. This enabled listeners to use their portable radios and stereos around the home and “normalize” Internet radio usage.

    Tim Coco · Feb 29, 02:04 AM · #

  2. Kurt —

    First, let me introduce myself, I’m Kelly O’Keefe and I’ve been working with the NAB and RAB an their Radio 2020 initiative. I love your blog and I’m usually a big fan, but I thinking you’re missing the boat on the radio-MP3 thing. You mention that “There are lots of ways that radio can get involved in the digital revolution. This particular angle, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be a particularly promising one.”

    Not promising? There’s a lot to suggest to the contrary.

    While some have said that younger, tech-savvy MP3 owners have no use for radio. Clearly that’s not the case. Take a close look at the copy on the two gadget blogs below, which both praise Apple for adding radio. Mind you these are blogs for early adopters, who some believe aren’t listening to radio.


    And when you look at Apple Store site, you’ll see product under their “top rated” iPod accessories. I encourage you to look at some of the reviews:


    In fact the iPod is one of the only MP3 players that doesn’t include radio as standard equipment. Of those that do, the Zune finds that radio goes very nicely, hand-in-hand with downloads. In fact Microsoft’s data shows that radio is the largest source for discovering music to download. So it’s good for download sales, good for radio and great for the consumer. Look at how many Amazon reviews of the Zune cite radio as a plus:


    Does radio need to accelerate it’s efforts to join the digital revolution? Absolutely! No argument there. But the progress being made with integration into devices like MP3 players is the kind of thing we should be encouraging.

    Thanks for listening.


    Kelly O'Keefe · Feb 29, 09:24 AM · #

  3. iPod has 70% of the market and they do plenty of research. If FM tuners were important to their user base, don’t you think Apple would include them?

    Bob Bellin · Mar 3, 05:24 AM · #

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