Apple could be preparing to add HD Radio support to new handheld models, a newly-published patent application hints. Titled Digital Radio Tagging Using an RF Tuner Accessory, the document suggests that future iPods and iPhones could be used to scan through all available radio stations, or only those with better-quality digital audio. Critically, data from digital stations could used as search fodder, for instance to locate a particular song or genre.
The filing also suggests tagging tracks for later buying, essentially a reference to the iTunes Tagging feature already available on the fifth-generation iPod nano and various third-party radios. HD Radio support could involve a connection to an external receiver, or else a car's stereo system.
The application could also potentially back information from a Wall Street Journal report in November 2009. At the time Apple was said to be in negotiations with iBiquity, the company behind HD Radio, with the hope of building HD Radio receivers directly into iPhones and iPod touches. Neither device currently has any form of radio tuner, though the Touch could conceivably gain one in its fall update. Even the iPhone 4, launching June 24th, must rely on accessories or Internet radio instead.