Does the iPad Have FM Radio?
By John Papiewski
Apple's technical specifications for the iPad include a long list of wireless standards, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Absent from the list is an old technology: FM radio. However, the specification list does not tell the whole story. When the technicians at iFixit took apart the iPad, they saw its wireless chip, which has an FM radio receiver among other functions. Hundreds of FM radio stations offer apps to their listeners, but the apps do not use the iPad's FM receiver.
The iPad uses a Broadcom BCM4329 integrated circuit (IC) chip, which combines several wireless functions in a single package, saving space inside the iPad's thin case. The chip provides radio signal processing for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which the iPad uses, and FM transmitting and receiving, which it does not. Another Apple product, the iPhone 4, uses the same Broadcom chip and likewise does not use the FM receiver. The iPod Nano has an FM tuner, but it uses a different chip, the Silicon Laboratories SI4706-D50.
Nonexistent FM Tuner Apps
The iPad delivers all its functions, such as Web browsing, camera and music, through software apps. Each app communicates to the hardware through Apple's iOS software. Apple has not included FM radio capabilities in iOS, so programmers cannot yet develop apps that tune FM radio signals.
Future iOS Releases
The iPad's hardware and iOS software are proprietary. While third-party developers receive enough information to create apps that work on iOS, they cannot develop their own FM control specifications, as these would be integral to iOS. Apple may choose to add FM radio to iOS software in future releases. As of August 2012, iOS 6 is due to be the next major release, although the features Apple has publicly announced do not include FM radio.
The apps many radio stations offer rely on content streamed over the Internet, not broadcast over traditional FM radio. Music and talk programs arrive wirelessly via Wi-Fi or cellular data networks. The apps do not have FM tuners; most receive a single specific station, and a few receive several, but only those that offer programming over the Internet. These apps satisfy the void created due to the absence of traditional FM radio capability in iOS.
Chicago native John Papiewski has a physics degree and has been writing since 1991. He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute. He also contributed to the book, "Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance."