Who took radios out handheld music players?

I’ve long wondered about something that’s been perplexing me as a consumer, for which I have been unable to find an answer. Ever since my teens, I’ve usually owned a portable AM/FM radio/cassette player. I liked having the option of searching for live music, and occasionally discovering new songs when they were first broadcast, and if I couldn’t find any I liked, listening to a mix tape of my favorite tunes, as well as listening to the news on the AM station. In more recent years, the units I’ve owned have also had a TV tuner that could pick up the audio of Channels 2 – 13, which provided an addition option, though I could admittedly give that up if necessary.

But then it seemed that electronics companies started phasing out radios for some reason. Portable CD players became popular, and I found that they typically did not include radios. I’m not positive that none of them did (I recently saw one that does), but regardless of all the hype about the superior sound quality of CD’s, I didn’t feel like lugging around such a larger item that I could not fit in my pocket, and I was quite content with the comparatively lower sound quality of cassettes.

Then came the MP3 revolution. Despite all these ridiculous Swiss army knife-type functions that they could fit into an iPhone and an iPod Touch, no one apparently thought having live radio would be something that a consumer would want. Some non-Apple companies like Sony do make digital radio walkmen, as well as combination MP3 player/radios, but because I have an Apple computer, I was told that it would not be able to download music to them because Apple and non-Apple electronics are not compatible. In addition, these Sony players have FM, but not AM, and I don’t want to give up the ability to listen to 1010WINS, the New York-area 24-hour news station, which I relied on during the 2003 Northeast Blackout, for example, which first hit when I was out and about listening to my walkman.

This meant that I had to stick with a primitive cassette player/radio, even after the mix tape I had in it broke, and even despite some embarrassing reactions from people who looked at me like I was a dinosaur. When that broke, I got a handheld radio unit from Best Buy in late 2006 or so. It didn’t include a cassette player, and so was much smaller, but I was told that it would cease function upon the February 2009 digital conversion. I tried contacting Apple to inquire as to why they won’t put an AM/FM tuner in their iPhones and iPods, or if they were planning to, and amazingly, I was told that they do not discuss such product information with customers.

So why won’t MP3 player makers put full FM/AM tuners in their handheld audio products? Is it because fitting the analog technology with the completely different digital technology in the same unit is burdensome? I’m now wondering if, in anticipation of the digital conversion, the companies figured it would be pointless to include a soon-to-be obsolete technology? But if that’s true, why can’t they put digital radio tuners in the units, and do so for both FM and AM? Are they planning on announcing that they have done so after the conversion, in order to exploit the conversion more dramatically? Now I understand that companies respond to market demands, and having worked myself in market research for 10 years, I know that companies like Apple utilize focus groups to research these things. Am I the only consumer who first discovers new songs on the radio? I the only one who recognizes the convenience of having live 24-hour radio news for weather, traffic and for emergencies? I should disclaim that I don’t drive, and can speculate that drivers rely on car radios for that, but that still doesn’t answer the question of all those pedestrians, especially in pedestrian and subway-dominated areas like New York City, who carry MP3 players on foot. Did the companies discover in the course of their market research that consumers would buy a product that included, in addition to an MP3 player, a calculator, a web browser, a camera, a phone, etc., but that no one wanted live radio??? This doesn’t make sense to me! Is someone eventually going to make an MP3 player with AM/FM that I can use with my Apple Mac?


It’s not included in an iPod, but they have add-ons that do it.

It’s not included by default because it’s a costly hardware addition that few people are interested in. Apple does not want to lose a few bucks of potential profit on every iPod they sell to please the 2% of the population who still wants to listen to the radio. All the “swiss army knife-type functions” in the iPod/iPhone are implemented in software, but adding a radio takes new tuning hardware, an antenna, and so forth. This does not help Apple in their pursuit of ever-thinner, ever-cheaper devices.

Apple did at one point make a “radio remote” for the iPod, which included an FM tuner, but I don’t think the newest models are supported - another indication of low consumer demand.

There are now third-party accessories that will do the same thing.

It’s certainly possible that your Sony player does not support Mac OS X, but there is nothing fundamentally incompatible about Apple and non-Apple devices. Maybe 10 years ago that was the case, but these days, Apple is a very standards-based company.

Sounds about right to me. I hate radio. I hate commercials. The whole reason I have an MP3 player is to avoid listening to the radio.

If I want the news, I will call up CNN.com on my iPhone and read it myself, not wait 5 minutes for some announcer to get around to talking about the topics I am interested in.

You mean they still have radio that’s not on the internet? :wink:

If it can get online with your iPod then you have scads of internet radio stations at your fingertips.

I think the problem with these devices is the courts decided back when it was AM/FM/Cassette Walkmans that a recording made of radio airplay is not protected in the same way as a recording made from published content. So there was probably a bit of pressure from labels to not make devices capable of making digital recordings of live radio.

Who took radios out handheld music players?


Most Sandisk Sansa’s have FM radio
A lot of iRiver players have FM radio
Several of Creative Zen players have FM radio
Almost all Samsung MP3 players have FM radio
All the Sony players I checked had FM radio

Hell there are Nokia cell phones with FM radios.

AM tuners are more rare – actually have not seen one.

As I’ve said a hundred times in threads like this, CNN.com et all does not cover local news. And it’s especially slow to cover local breaking news. Whenever there’s an earthquake around here, the first reports are on the radio.


I had a Discman with AM/FM on it, and IIRC, the AM antenna was a cobalt bar inside the CD player - you had to rotate the player to adjust the antenna. Since the antenna was as wide as the player, I’d imagine most MP3 players are too small for an AM antenna. My Sansa Clip certainly is.

The headphones operated as the FM antenna, so MP3 players can include that. I imagine that’s why MP3 players only have FM tuners.

I’m with you Luigi; I want AM radio on my iPod to listen to sporting events. I always figured that Jobs nixed the idea on iPods because it would ruin the simplicity of the interface.

On a side note, is radio switching to all digital? I thought it was just TV?

Zunes have FM tuners as well.

Id say that we the consumer did after being disalusioned with conventional fm radio. While am radio had its niche market, we were finally given the ability to listen to what we want, when we want.

The electronics industry took the ball and ran with it, giving us smaller music players with greater storage capacity and in the process allowed other companies the ability to offer the same services as value added content. So when i had my sony w810i i could plug in the headphones, which was the antenna for the fm radio. This allowed the phone to be able to offer a variety of different options in one device. Now , i payed something like six bucks and running wunder radio on the iphone and an unlimited amount of radio stations world wide over the internet.

So in summary, except for those survival/ emergency radios and the car stereo, we expect that our devices do more than one or two things for the money we pay, at least until the next consumer cycle.


Both AM and FM will work just fine after the digital conversion. If your model also has a TV tuner, that will be the part that doesn’t work anymore. But you’ll still get 1010 WINS just like you always did.

No. Or at least, not for the foreseeable future.

I am an AM radio junkie and a lil’ pissed that I can’t get an Mp3 player with AM.

My Sansa has FM though…but FM has nothing I wanna hear…or rather I’ve heard what they play ONE MILLION TIMES OVER ALREADY. :rolleyes:

Maybe someone will make a damn FM talk radio station one day…the closest I’ve heard to talk on FM has been 93.3 with MJ (Shnitt) for a few hours in the morning.
But the music they play afterward is Crap. That’s a " RADIO SHOW" and not “TALK RADIO”.

As has already been mentioned, pretty much every MP3 player on the market except the [del]iFail[/del] iPod has an FM radio on it.

There’s almost nothing worth listening to on AM here except the racing and one or two talkback stations directed at the old fogey crowd (who don’t keep up with technology) or people in the middle of nowhere (ditto, to an extent). It’s not a great loss, in other words, as long as the FM part works OK (which they generally do, IME)

The FM radios I have used on digital music players are generally pretty awful with extremely poor selectivity and sensitivity and a clumsy interface for FM channel selection. I get better FM performance out of $ 20 Radio Shack FM radio.

You could buy shirt-clip AM/FM radios 15 years ago that were no bigger than an Ipod Shuffle. I’m pretty sure it’s not a technical issue.

Two problems. One, fitting a decent antenna, and the associated electronics, inside a tiny package. Two, finding an AM or FM station that doesn’t suck.

I don’t miss it.

Nevertheless, I found the same thing as the OP last time I bought an mp3 player.
I had to buy a Walkman (because I was working for Sony at the time and got money off), but none of them had a radio.
In the end I bought a tiny mp3 player from a no-name Chinese company (as well as a walkman). It’s barely bigger than an iPod shuffle, and was about $30, strongly suggesting the problem with radio is not cost or size of the components.

But yes, I see that now all walkmans have radio. Was it consumer pressure I wonder…

Today, you can get single-chip digital FM receivers that are much smaller and easier to integrate into digital systems. I have one that was built into a USB flash drive enclosure, with a dangling wire for the antenna.



This sort of integration is impossible with conventional analog designs.