Apple iPod Radio Remote
- Extra pair of headphones included, Small and compact, Very easy to use, Allows dual headphone listening
- Only works with nano and Video iPods, Needs a software update to work, No way to quickly find a favourite
It’s not perfect, but the small, compact and easy to use iPod Radio Remote is a handy accessory. The ability to connect two headphone jacks while listening is an excellent feature as well.
Price$ 79.00 (AUD)
One of the major criticisms of Apple's popular iPod is that it doesn't offer the range of extra features that many other MP3s include as standard. Instead of correcting this by adding it to the iPods feature list, Apple has decided to release yet another accessory (sigh); this time, the Apple iPod Radio Remote. Was this the right move? Perhaps.
The iPod Radio Remote is an extremely simple device; it plugs into your iPod using the dock connector and turns your player into a device capable of receiving FM frequencies and hence, FM radio. The design is, of course, particularly Apple; the dock connector is joined to the small remote via a grey cable looking decisively similar to the standard iPod headphones.
Now that we've mentioned headphones, we must say we were surprised when we opened out package and found a set of headphones packed with the Radio Remote. Anyone who purchases the Radio Remote will already have an iPod and thus, a standard set of Apple earphones. Hence, their inclusion is either a signal from Apple that their stock ear buds don't last long at all (which they don't) or simply an excuse to bump up the price of this new accessory. Since the first is highly unlikely, we can only think that the second option is the path Apple has chosen.
Unfortunately, owners of older model iPods aren't covered here. The iPod Radio Remote only works with the iPod nano and the 30GB and 60BG iPod Video. Yes, you read correctly; it will not work on any other iPod model. It's quite frustrating that Apple has chosen to neglect the older market, but they assure us it's because the software on the older models is simply unable to support the function that the Radio Remote brings to the table. In addition to this, nano and Video owners will have to update their firmware to version 1.1 to be able to use the Remote.
The first thing we noticed about the Radio Remote is its size; it's not much larger than a 20 cent coin and weighs almost nothing. This compactness can be attributed to the fact that the Radio Remote doesn't run off its own battery - it uses the power of the iPod. This sounds fine in theory but be wary that this means the battery life of your iPod will be drained much faster than usual. Apple claims a fully charged iPod should last for eight hours with the Radio Remote, but this doesn't account for changing stations.
The Remote itself looks like a very miniscule iPod shuffle, utlising exactly the same control system. There's Next and Previous Track buttons, Volume Up/Down and a Play/Pause button. A Hold slider switch and a headphone jack at the top of the unit round out the controls. That's it. Simple, small but very, very effective. A handy clip located at the rear of the remote means it can be easily hooked to your shirt or bag for easy access. Perhaps the best feature of this accessory, besides the Radio function it offers is the ability to connect two sets of headphones to your iPod. The dock connector of the Radio Remote does not interfere with the headphone jack on the iPod itself so you can plug one into your iPod and the other into the Remote, meaning two people can listen to one iPod. This is an extremely convenient function that is normally only possible by purchasing a headphone splitter.
When you plug the Radio Remote into your iPod and navigate to the Radio Menu, the interface will appear. There are two boxes; one displaying the current frequency you are tuned to, the other displaying either RDS (Radio Data System) information, or the FM frequency spectrum. The latter two functions can be switched between by pressing the centre button on your iPod. Operation is hassle-free; you manually tune a station by spinning the click wheel and mark it as a favourite by holding down the centre button until it is programmed in. Alternatively you can hold down the Previous and Next buttons to automatically scan the next available station. A favourite station is marked on the frequency spectrum by a small triangle below the frequency line.
The biggest disadvantage of the favourites function is that there is no way to quickly skip to a favourite station. The favourites aren't numbered, so you'll simply have to scroll through all the stations on the spectrum to fun the one you're looking for. Perhaps Apple would have been best off using the system seen in mobile phone radios - a numbered system where stations can be accessed immediately, instead of unnecessary fiddling.
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