Radio engineer Alan Jurison was kind enough to share his thoughts on the radio features of the new sixth-generation Apple iPod Nano recently — that's the one iPod device that has built-in FM radio. The 8 GB unit is $149 and the 16 GB unit lists for $179 from Apple.
Jurison (who has been writing about RDS in a series for Radio World) finds the FM analog and RDS sensitivity of the newest Nano similar to that of the fifth generation. "They kept the RT+ and Proprietary iTunes Tagging very similar to the fifth generation, but actually made them slightly more intuitive because you touch a 'tag' icon," he tells me.
It does not support the RT+Album Field; he says that in the sixth-gen unit, there isn't enough real estate on the screen to fit it anyway. The fifth generation does have room to store it. "It's a shame they didn't make the display slightly larger and support album data tagging via RDS."
Apple kept the "live pause" of 15 minutes of FM radio; and there's a neat local radio station list that auto-populates with all local stations detected, he tells me. Radio regions are still supported, so it will support different FM standards and bands across the world.
However, a big negative for Alan is it's hard to turn off the device. "You can drain the battery listening to radio and pressing what you think the power button is. You need to stop playing the radio by pausing the station, or by stopping the song you are playing," which is frustrating users who are venting on Internet sites.
Apple's official documentation states that you have to press the Sleep/Wake button, and it will turn off in 36 hours if there is no activity.
Apple has removed the external buttons for next/previous track (or station); the tech developer relies on their earbuds with an integrated button that has a fourth pin on the 1/8-inch jack for this functionality, according to Jurison (who likes to use more professional headphones). For this reason, plus the small screen, which is about an inch and a half square, as well as the way the unit turns off, he prefers the fifth-gen Nano.
I like how Apple describes how to use the FM radio feature.