Review: Apple Radio Remote for iPod

Apple Radio Remote

Last week I picked up one of those Apple Radio Remotes for my iPod. Overall I am very happy with it, but I thought I would share some observations.

The Connection:
You attach the Radio Remote to your iPod via the doc connector on the bottom. The cable connector looks very similar to the one found on one end of your USB (charging/syncing) cable, but it is slightly different. The connector on your USB cable has two small buttons on either side that are used to retract the little hooks that secure the connector to your iPod. The Radio Remote connector doesn’t have those buttons. Instead the connectors are less hook shaped, and are more rounded, and spring-loaded. This makes it a little easier to connect / disconnect the cable, but it definitely seems like the kind of thing that will wear out, or break with lots of use, so be careful.

The Interface:
When you plug your remote into your iPod, you are given a new menu item called Radio. The interface is intuitive, and easy to use, as it looks just like an old analog radio dial. However, I was a little disappointed in it’s performance, because it does NOT actively scan the stations. If you were using an actual radio, you would briefly hear all the stations that you passed over as you turn the dial. With the iPod remote, you must stop briefly on each number to allow it to tune in that station. While this has no real impact if you already know what number you want to go to, it did make scanning the entire dial a slow, tedious process. Luckily, you can mark your favorites by holding down the center button on your iPod (or remote). To navigate your favorites you can push the forward and rewind buttons to instantly jump to the next / previous favorite.

The Remote:
The remote is simple, straight forward, and easy to use. It really needs no explanation. If you are a previous user of the now discontinued Apple wired iPod remote, you’ll find the design of the clasp to be far superior in this model. The clasp on the old remote was extremely shallow, and hard to clip on to your shirt, bag, etc… The clasp on the new Radio Remote is much deeper, and easier to use.

The Reception:
I’ve only tried it in a few places, but so far the reception seems OK. Outdoors, I haven’t had any problems. Indoors I have had some poor reception, and I have to hold the remote in my hand, to use my body as a booster. Here in San Francisco we have A LOT of stations. Some of them have pretty weak signals… they only go for a few city blocks. Those smaller stations don’t usually come in.

The conclusion:
I like the new Radio Remote, and I enjoy being able to listen to the radio. My single biggest complaint is the active scanning, and I hope that may be updated in the future… but it may be a battery suck to have the iPod do that. The price tag of $49 is a bit steep, but no one ever accused Apple of being inexpensive.

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