Home > Articles > Hardware > Upgrading & Repairing

How to Turn Your iPhone into a Portable AM/FM Radio

  • Print
  • + Share This
Apple’s iPhone is like a iPod music player melded onto a sophisticated mobile phone. It does triple duty as a mobile phone, handheld computer, and portable music player. It’s great for making calls and listening to music - except for traditional AM/FM radio. Why can’t your fancy-schmancy iPhone do what that cheap little transistor radio did half a century ago? In this article, author Michael Miller shows you several ways to get AM/FM programming on your iPhone - from external accessories to online streaming services.

Save 35% off the list price* of the related book or multi-format eBook (EPUB + MOBI + PDF) with discount code ARTICLE.
* See informit.com/terms

Like this article? We recommend

Let’s face it, Apple’s iPhone is a remarkable device. It does triple duty as a mobile phone, handheld computer, and portable music player. The one thing it doesn’t do, however, is play traditional AM/FM radio – something transistor radios have been doing for half a century. Really; I grew up in the early 60s with a transistor radio next to my right ear, tuned to WIFE-AM in Indianapolis. Why can’t my fancy-schmancy iPhone do what that cheap little transistor radio did half a century ago?


Interested in similar articles? You might like these:


Why Your iPhone Doesn’t Have a Built-In Radio

I find it perplexing that Apple didn’t initially include an AM/FM radio in its iPod music players, or in its later smartphones. Other companies, such as Creative, include radios in their portable music players; some smartphones, such as models from HTC, also have this feature. It took Apple a half-dozen generations before it added FM radio functionality to its players, which it finally did with the iPod nano. But there’s still no AM or FM radio in the flagship iPhone.

And why not? It could be a simple matter of price; the pennies that it would cost to add the AM or FM circuitry would push the iPhone’s price up above what the average consumer is willing to pay.

I don’t think that’s the case, however; most folks wouldn’t notice if the iPhone’s price went up by a buck or two. And, after all, Apple was able to add an FM radio to the moderately priced iPod nano without anyone crying foul. Why not to any other devices in the line?

So maybe it’s a space issue, although it’s hard to believe that whatever chip or circuitry that might be needed couldn’t be fit within the iPhone case. Battery life might also be an issue; I imagine an AM or FM radio would draw some amount of power that could diminish the phone’s overall battery life.

It could also be a simple matter of Apple not wanting you to have the option of free music over the airwaves, especially when they have that big ol’ iTunes Store there to sell you all the music you want. Why give it to you free if they can make money selling it to you?

I’ve even seen some people argue that AM/FM radio just isn’t elegant enough for the folks at Apple. Terrestrial radio, after all, is rife with static and poor reception, and that’s not the way Apple likes to roll. If it ain’t clean and clear digital, Apple don’t want it.

Or maybe Apple just doesn’t think AM or FM radio is important enough to bother with. There may be something to this; given the choice of listening to your own custom playlists or being forced to sit through the dreck that most commercial radio stations broadcast these days, who wouldn’t turn off the radio in favor of a personalized digital music stream?

In any case, Apple obviously doesn’t think this is a burning issue, and it probably isn’t – or else more people would be complaining about it. Still, there are times and places where AM or FM radio may be your only listening choice; I’d really appreciate it if my iPhone could pick up my local stations, in addition to the streaming and downloadable music options currently offered.

Adding Radio Functionality to Your iPhone

What can you do if you want to listen to terrestrial radio on your iPhone? There are actually a couple of options.

The first thing you can do is connect an external radio to your iPhone, via a piece of add-on hardware. There used to be a few different choices here, but the market seems to have shaken out – maybe completely.

My favorite radio add-on is the Navigate in-line FM tuner/controller from Griffin Technology. This neat little unit connects to the dock connector on your iPhone or iPod and adds FM capability to your device. It also includes a connector to plug in your earbuds. Just connect everything together and dial in the local station you want.

Figure 1 Griffin's Navigate in-line FM tuner/controller

Unfortunately, the Navigate appears to be discontinued; at least, you can’t find it on Griffin’s website. It’s still available from Amazon and other retailers, however, so if this sounds like the way to go, snatch yours up fast. Suggested list price is $60, although actual selling price tends to be somewhat lower.

(Griffin used to sell another radio add-on called iFM, which operated in much the same fashion but was incompatible with newer iPods and iPhones. Like the Navigate, the iFM is apparently discontinued but also still available from some retailers; it’s priced at $39.99, if you can find one – and have an older model iPhone.)

Listening to Radio Over the Internet

Given the lack of add-on radio accessories, you may want to choose an alternative method for listening to AM and FM radio on your iPhone. This means installing a streaming radio app for your phone, and listening to terrestrial radio over the Internet.

That’s right, there are iPhone apps that let you “tune into” terrestrial radio stations and stream their programming over any Internet connection. So if your iPhone is connected to a Wi-Fi network or hotspot, or if you’re connected to your carrier’s mobile data network, you can listen to AM and FM radio stations from anywhere in the U.S., in real time, on your phone. Just enter a location or musical genre to see the available stations, then tune in to the one you want to listen to.

There are two main streaming radio apps you want to look at. My favorite is TuneIn Radio, which lets you browse through all your local AM and FM stations (even the HD substations), or look for out-of-town stations that fit your fancy – more than 70,000 stations in all. If you’re in the right mood, you can even use TuneIn Radio to listen in on local police and fire bands.

Figure 2 Listening to local AM and FM radio stations with the TuneIn Radio app

All you have to do is enter the name of a city or browse through the programming genres (rock, jazz, classical, talk, etc.). Find the station you like and then tap to start listening. It all happens in real time; I especially like how current programming is displayed onscreen, so you don’t have to guess what’s playing.

Also popular is the iHeartRadio app, which was developed by the evil geniuses at the Clear Channel Communications conglomerate. Like TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio lets you browse for stations by location or genre, and then listen in live. It also offers a variety of Internet-only radio stations (from Clear Channel, of course), and the ability to create your own custom stations, so you have additional programming options. (My perception is that iHeartRadio is more of a general streaming music app that also offers local radio stations, but that may be a good thing for some listeners.)

Figure 3 More local radio stations in the iHeartRadio app

Both TuneIn Radio and iHeartRadio are free apps, available from the Apple App Store. I tend to prefer TuneIn Radio, as it isn’t linked to the Clear Channel empire, but you should try ‘em both and then use the one you like best. Either app is a great way to listen to your favorite AM and FM radio stations, from anywhere in the U.S.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020