Apple Patent Application Reveals iPhone FM Radio Receiver and Control

On November 18, 2010, a patent application [USPTO, PDF] owned by published showing the use of a device, such as an iPhone, to control FM radio. Other sources have noted or speculated that the iPhone  has an FM radio receiver [The Register, CNet UK, iPhone Hacks]. This patent application supports the prior reports from CNet that Apple is developing a radio app for the iPhone.

The application discloses that a mobile device, such an an iPhone, that provides an interface for controlling the station that is received through an FM receiver and played on the device. The application shows that the device can provide the use with the options for calling, texting, or sending an email to the radio station that is currently being played through the device.

The application suggests that the FM function or App can integrate with purchasing function to allow a user to purchase a song–presumably through iTunes–that is played on an FM station, as previously suggested by 9 to 5 Mac.

To be clear, the application discloses the device, i.e. iPhone, can include a FM receiver [ see ¶¶ 51, 86] however, the application does not foreclose the possibility that the FM Receiver is external to the device (e.g is an add-on accessory) [ see ¶ 86, “Example mobile devices 701 and 702 are mobile devices that are equipped with or can be coupled to an RF receiver 121 that can receive radio broadcast and a simulcast data stream.”]

The patent application also reveals the following:

  • Providing users with links to other sites (i.e. “Watch on YouTube,” “Books at”, or Wikipedia)  having content related to the song being played.
  • Serving advertising related to the content being played–i.e. on offer to buy tickets  for a concert of the artist currently being played in the geographic area of the user.
  • Suggesting other radio station having similar content as the one currently playing when the current radio station begins to become out of range.
  • Tracking the history of radio stations tuned by a user, categories of content listened to and for how long–“identify the user’s interests, which can be used by the server to make content recommendations to the user.” The application discloses that a user can turn off the tracking.
  • A social networking component where a user can disclose to other in a social network the user’s listening history–similar to Pandora or
  • Providing a location aware function that suggests radio stations based on the location of the user.
  • A library aware function that integrates with a users library of music–iTunes–were the application will refrain from suggesting the purchase of a song currently being played where the user already owns that song.

Current Radio apps are restricted to streaming the content of the FM station over the Internet because it appears currently that Apple has not allowed developers to utilize the FM receiver function in the iPhone, if it exists there. Time will tell whether Apple allow developers to utilize the FM receiver function for third party apps.