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Griffin iFM Radio Receiver for iPhone/iPod Review

on July 15, 2010 11:16 pm

One feature that has always been lacking in Apple’s iPhone and iPod family that many other MP3 player models have had is an FM receiver.  Though many may scoff and offer a flippant, “Who cares about radio?”, it’s a feature that was sorely missed when my wife switched from her Sandisk Sansa MP3 player to her 4th gen iPod nano and later her iPhone 3GS (shown in this review), who uses the FM to listed to TV audio broadcast at the gym.  I had begun to give up hope that I’d ever find a solution to this until I stumbled upon the iFM radio receiver from Griffin Technology.  Read on for more…

The Packaging

The packaging for this product is simple and straightforward.  I quite like the trapezoidal shape, with the inside tray that slides out from the outside sleeve, but only in one direction.   The windows in the back that allow you to view the actual product are a must.

box front - click to enlarge

box back - click to enlarge

inside box - click to enlarge

Inside the Box

The contents of the package, like the packaging itself, were quite simple, consisting of the following:

  • iFM radio receiver
  • griffintechnology.com decal
  • instruction manual (which I promptly misplaced before I could snap a picture)
package contents - click to enlarge

contents - click to enlarge

Features – Hardware

The iFM device itself is quite simple (seeing a theme here?).  It consist of a headphone jack module and an iPhone/iPod dock connector module, both connected by a 4-inch length of cable.  All in basic white color scheme with the Griffin logo.

headphone jack - click to enlarge

iPhone/iPod dock connector - click to enlarge

The iFM has the appearance of a natural extension of the stock iPhone earbuds:

iFM with iPhone earbuds connected - click to enlarge

iFM connected to iPhone 3GS - click to enlarge

And that’s it for the hardware.  No on/off switches, no buttons, just plug and go.  KISS.

Features – Software

The software in this case is an iFM Radio Controller app that is available as a free download from the iTunes App Store.  As with the packaging and the hardware, the operation of the Radio Controller app is straightforward.

Upon initial launch of the app, the user is first prompted to select the Radio Region.  At this stage, you can also select whether the app will “Stay Awake” when the iPhone goes into sleep mode:

Next, the user is prompted begin the process of setting his or her radio presets, which will become your “favorite” stations:

Next comes the process of actually finding your favorite stations, using either the virtual tuner wheel (on iPhone or iPod touch) or the Click Wheel (on iPod nano and regular iPod), or by hitting the ‘seek’ forward and backward buttons:

And finally, you have a personalized list of your own favorite ‘preset’ stations.  Just tap a station to access it:

One drawback with the iFM is that it cannot multitask.  I’m hoping that Griffin will update this app and give it iOS 4 compatibility like every other app dev on earth is currently doing.  One other thing to note is that you cannot use the iPhone’s headset earbuds/mic to answer a phone call with iFM running, which seems a bit crude:

In addition, the iFM radio controller is compatible with the Griffin iFM Radio Browser app, also a free download from the iTunes App Store.  This app is not a radio, but is more of a media browser, similar to Shazam or Soundhound, that gives you additional info on music and lets you buy it with a tap.

Conclusion

I like this accessory.  I’m not sure why Apple has chosen not to include an FM tuner in their products, and I’ve read a few articles online that the iPhone has the capability, although it is not enabled.  Not everyone may need or want FM radio capability with their iPhone or iPod, but for those that do, this is a simple, straightforward solution.  Easy to install, set up and use, and according to my wife (who is the main user of this device in our household), it doesn’t seem to drain the iPhone’s battery any faster than with normal operation.  The only downsides seems to be the lack of multitask (which should be correctable through a software update) and the situation with answering phone calls.

 

Product Information

Price:$39.99
Manufacturer:Griffin Technology
Requirements:
  • iPhone 3G/3GS and original iPhone, 2nd & 3rd gen and original iPod touch, 3rd & 4th gen iPod nano, iPod classic & iPod with video
Pros:
  • - Easy installation
  • - Unobtrusive hardware
  • - App is simple to set up and use
Cons:
  • - App not multitask capable
  • - Can't answer phone calls thru headphones & mic

Comments

  1. 1
    bunty says:

    Can I use iFM to listen to regular music stored on my ipod? My ipod touch headphone jack is not working any more, its out of warranty and repairing it costs a lot (almost as new one). So I was planning to get iFM as an alternative, plus added benefit of a radio.

  2. 2
    Hector says:

    Yes you can use this to hear music from iTunes,so i would recomend it!Regards!

  3. 3
    Josè says:

    Hello… so if I close the iFM application, I can listen to music (or other sounds coming from applications) from the headphones connected to iFM. Are you sure ?

  4. 4
    Jed says:

    can ones BT headphone/headset be used with this?
    dont want to have to use corded cans whilst jogging etc.

  5. 5
    Chris says:

    Hi
    Does this work with iPhone 4?

  6. 6
    Jed says:

    To answer my qn, no they can’t unfortunately.
    I put in a request that this be added….

    cheers.

  7. 7
    Kathrine says:

    Do you have to listen to the radio through the headphones or can you play the radio through the iphone speaker? As of now I listen to the radio with my current cell phone sitting on the counter and listen to it while I walk around. I don’t really want to have to carry the phone with me with the headphone on. The lack of an FM radio is the number one reason I have not upgraded to an iphone.

  8. 8
    Jed says:

    ^ I’d be interested in knowing this too!

  9. 9
    Andy Jacobs says:

    @Kathrine and @Jed – Great question! Unfortunately, you have to use the headphones, you cannot use the iFM to play radio through the iPhone’s speakers. :(

    On a related note, I can’t understand WHY Apple refuses to add an FM tuner to the iPod or the iPhone. Yet another frustrating little “WE know what features you want better YOU do” thing that Apple does that we have had to put up with.

  10. 10
    Janet Cloninger says:

    The new iPod nano (6th generation) does have an FM tuner. Maybe Apple will start adding the tuner to their other devices now.

  11. 11
    Andy Jacobs says:

    @Janet – Thanks, I totally forgot about the newer iPod nano models having the FM tuner feature! I’ve read online that the iPhone does have the capability of supporting an FM tuner, but for some reason (!) Apple still has chosen not to enable it. >:-(

  12. 12
    Jed says:

    It’s bizarre as the IC tx/rx used by the touch has had that ability for some time, they just haven’t added a little bit extra infrastructure to make it happen.
    Typical Apple behaviour…… grrrr

  13. 13
    Adam says:

    Hey all, I am really keen on an IPod touch 4th Generation (32GB) does this headset/app work on the latest 4th Gen Ipods? Cant seem to find a definitive answer anywhere, has anyone tried it?

  14. 14
    Jed says:

    When I sent them a query about this product, the form required that I mention my iTouch gen. (mine is 4th), & they didn’t say it was incompatible.

    N.B.
    My question wasn’t about compatibility, so they may not have noticed that aspect.
    Anyway instead of using the form, you can email them directly.
    I stripped this when I got a response: support@griffintechnology.com

    IME they’re fairly quick to respond….
    Let us all know if you got confirmation that it’s compatible!

    Cheers,
    Jed

  15. 15
    Adam says:

    Cheers for the address Jed, response from Griffin:

    “we cannot officially claim compatibility yet, so far, anything that works with the iPod Touch 3rd Generation for charging and transmitting will work with the new iPod Touch 4 Generation” although they also add:
    “As soon as any products and compatibility for iPod Touch 4 become available, they will be listed as available/compatible on our website”

    A non-committal answer if ever I heard one! Surely if one person has used it, and said “yes it works” or “no it doesn’t” that would be an answer! Someone somewhere must’ve tried it!!!

  16. 16
    Jed says:

    How lame is that, surely they’d have some engineering/testing capability.
    So why not test one in-house, so that they can slap a “compatible w/iTouch 4G” sticker on it?!

    They wouldn’t have to devote an inordinate amount of resources towards that.
    Besides, it’d be worth it….

    *face-palm* freakin idiots…

  17. 17
    FredJohnson says:

    “Model GC17088
    Manufacturer Griffin
    Compatability iPhone – First Generation, iPhone – 3G / 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod Touch 1st Generation, iPod Touch 2nd Generation, iPod Touch 3rd Generation, iPod Touch 4th Generation, iPod Classic, iPod Nano – 2nd Generation, iPod Nano – 3rd Generation, iPod Nano – 4th Generation, iPod Video
    Condition NEW – FULL RETAIL PACKAGE”

    I read the above at a website selling the Griffin iFM. I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but I am waiting for an answer from Griffin.

  18. 18
    Jed says:

    If you get a “definite yes” from sales this time…
    Then maybe the the sales person Adam got was clueless? *shrugs*

  19. 19
    CorpAu says:

    Connector / OS (v4.1) wise, if it works on iphone 4 it ‘should’ also be compatible with the Touch 4.
    Tested other h/w and apps that work but not specifically the iFM.
    In Australia, we live in the Telecoms dark ages, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

    Cheers.

  20. 20
    Jed says:

    @FredJohnson

    So have you heard back from Griffin yet?

    Cheers,
    Jed

  21. 21
    Adam says:

    I’ve purchased the iFM and tried it with the Ipod touch 4th Gen 32 GB and can confirm it works!! Now that wasn’t difficult, I plugged it in…..and it worked, why couldn’t the manufacturers have tried that!!
    Adam,

  22. 22
    Jed says:

    Adam,

    Thanks for chiming-in and confirming this…
    No need to hear back from FredJohnson on the response he got from griffin now.

    All the best,
    Jed

  23. 23
    Mickey says:

    Hi. Is this compatible with iPod Touch 4th gen? Thanks!

  24. 24
    Adam says:

    Mickey,

    As per my message above, It works perfectly fine on my Ipod touch 32GB 4th Gen.

    Adam,

  25. 25
    Jed says:

    @Mickey,
    I think you need to work on the reading comprehension matey ;)
    But as Adam said, it’s working, albeit still not “officially” acknowledged as compatible.

  26. 26
    Gabi says:

    Hi guys,

    I have an iPhone 3g with 3.1.2 OS. I’ve received, as a gift, the controller but unfortunately Appstore only has the application version 1.1.0 for 4.0 OS or above therefore I can’t use it. I don’t want to upgrade my firmware so do you know if/where I can find the application compatible with 3.1.2? Thanks

  27. 27
    Jed says:

    If you’re referring to the Griffin iFM receiver when you say “controller”…

    Then you’re best bet would be to ask Griffin if there’s an app supporting older iOS’s.

  28. 28
    jason says:

    pease could you tell me dose it after be conected to the internet to work becuase i have been using the free app you can get for listening to the fm radio in its been costing me alot ov money

  29. 29
    Jon says:

    I got mine today and have to say very impressed!!

    I am using it in Australia so if anyone has any concerns about getting it in AUS, dont it works a treat!!

    Using it with an IPOD touch 4G

  30. 30
    Jed says:

    i’m in oz, decided in-the-end i don’t really need/want it that badly.
    There’s radio apps, still not quite the same thing, but good enough.

    When the next touch comes out & i sell my 4g & buy it, if there’s still no FM then, i prolly will.

  31. 31
    Hewlett1974 says:

    Hi, I have just purchased a Griffin iFM for use with my Iphone 3GS 32Gb (jailbroken). I have downloaded the Griffin app, but when I plug the controller in to my phone, all I get is a message saying ‘please connect your iFM controller’. It has been connected/disconnected several times and the app has also been re-installed. Any ideas? Is it likely because the phone has been jailbroken?

  32. 32
    Leslie says:

    Yes, this device does work on the itouch 4th generation. I’ve only have it a day so I can’t tell anything else as far as performance. It worked for the gym tvs which was my main purpose for buying it.

  33. 33
    dani says:

    us it work on iphone 4

  34. 34
    SteveH says:

    I just returned my iFM to the vendor. If you try to run it on iPhone 3GS in background (dark screen) it shuts down after 10 minutes. In foreground running, screen bright, it kills the battery in about two hours. I contacted Griffin support and was told by Curt that they don’t plan on an update for it to run in background. Not an acceptable product in my mind

  35. 35
    Klas Romberg says:

    I would like to use the iFM hardware tuner using my iphone 4 to pick up low power signals as frequently used in lecture halls with the lecturer speaking via a personal mic and the signal wirelessly transmitted to recording device or as in the case hotel lectures, to overhead speakers. I am hard of hearing and would appreciate getting liberated from being flooded with confusing sounds from all different directions. I also have an iphone 3 that I may utilize for this purpose, unless the griffin system by now is also compatible with iphone 4.

  36. 36
    rj perez says:

    hi anyone i’m from the philippines. would it work in an asian region? and it doesnt need wifi connection right?????? appreciate a reply.. thanx

  37. 37
    Adrien says:

    Hi,
    Someone using iFM could confirm that multitask issue has really been enabled?

  38. 38
    Rojolay says:

    Hi, I have just purchased a Griffin iFM for use with my Iphone 3GS 32Gb (jailbroken). I have downloaded the Griffin app, but when I plug the controller in to my phone, all I get is a message saying ‘please connect your iFM controller’. It has been connected/disconnected several times and the app has also been re-installed. Any ideas? Is it likely because the phone has been jailbroken?

  39. 39
    douglas says:

    Hi, I am thinking about buying an iphone 4s, I know that none of the iphones come with FM so I was wondering whether this would be compatible? I know it works with iPhone/3g/3gs (through this site), other reviews said it would work with the iPhone 4/4s but I need to make sure before buying.
    Thanks
    Douglas

  40. 40
    Sam says:

    Hello
    First of all tnxs for such kind of things and I just have an a q? That is
    Does it work on iPod touch 2nd gen when it is not connected with the
    Wifi or Internet …… Pls let me know ??

  41. 41
    Marcus says:

    Apple does not include radio capability because there is no financial incentive for them to do so, and there is also the very real risk that free radio would give their customers motivation to forgo purchases from iTunes.
    Ape is a corporation in a for-profit, market economy: follow the money (or lack there of.)
    It is a simple decision of economics for them.

  42. 42
    Annabel juanzo says:

    I want to buy ifm tuner receiver for ipod

  43. 43
    Annabel juanzo says:

    Can it use in ipod touch 5?

  44. 44
    Dieter says:

    Hi,

    use griffin navigate on my iphone 5s, it works fine in europa.

    but can`t use iFM Radio Controller on my iphone.

    allways tells my “please connect your iFm”

    has anyone the solution for this problem ?

    rgds

    Dieter

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