Creative Advertises FM Radio Recording, Kindly Revokes It

If you tell someone you bought a Creative mp3 player, chances are their first question to you is going to be, “Why didn’t you just buy an iPod?” Pay these people no mind: they are Apple zealots and will burn in hell. After all, an iPod doesn’t let you record FM radio on the fly, does it? ‘Ey?

Well, no, it doesn’t. But then again, neither do Creative MP3 players more. Creative has just released a firmware update for it’s Zen MicroPhoto and Zen Visin:M players, which disables the box-advertised feature of recording FM radio to your hard drive.

Isn’t it nice now that EULAs allow companies to revoke your rights for their own convenience at any time?

Creative Strips FM from Zen Vision [Gizmodo]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Plasmafire says:

    I was considering buying the creative Zen M but now im wondering if I should consider another non I-pod brand.

  2. Jess A. says:

    For what it’s worth, Plasmafire, I’ve had a Zen Micro for a couple of years, now, and I’ve been really happy with it. If my next firmware update disables the FM recording capabilities, I have to admit that I won’t miss it because I never use it. I rarely use the FM tuner to begin with — it doesn’t have the strongest antenna, and I didn’t buy an MP3 player to listen to FM radio.

    All that said, my Zen Micro has proven to be sturdy (I’ve dropped it more than once, to no ill effect), updatable in ways that iPods are not (firmware upgrades are terrific), and an all-around good investment. If I had to choose again, I might choose a blue one instead of green, but that’s about it.

  3. Mike_ says:

    What’s with all the Apple hate, anyway? I’m no zealot, but I love my Macs and iPods.

    If Creative feels it necessary to revoke a box-advertised feature, they should do a recall. Failing that, the upgrade app should conspicuously warn the user it is about to disable FM recording, and give the option to leave the device as-purchased. If I used that feature, and it was quietly disabled in a firmware upgrade, I would go berserk.

    Recalls are expensive. Being sued by the RIAA is expensive. Sneaking something like this into a firmware upgrade is cheap. The big-box stores will eat much of the cost when people “upgrade” within 30 days of purchase, and then return it as “broken” (perhaps exchanging for a non-upgraded unit). For everyone else who complains, Creative can issue a check on a case-by-case basis, or tell the customer to buzz off (“read the EULA”). Not many people have the resources to do anything other than whine about it in forums and blog comments.

  4. Jess A. says:

    One thing I forgot to mention in my comment is that every firmware upgrade I’ve done on my Zen Micro has clearly stated what functionality it adds as well as what changes to current functionality. Consumerist readers can check for themselves whether or not the FM removal is made clear in the Firmware Upgrade details (it is — it’s even in bold, twice in the Firmware details.)

    Downloading firmware is optional, so if you really want to maintain this feature, you just don’t download the new firmware. This may cost you some advanced functionality down the road, but it’s totally up to the consumer as to whether to upgrade the firmware; it’s not as if one morning their FM recorder is magically disabled.

  5. zibby says:

    Well here’s an answer – I can say mine still works like a charm after almost 3 years whilst simultaneously listening to all the Think Different Sheep whine about how many times their cutsey little iPod has broken – I’ve dropped it a couple times, too. I don’t give a fig about the tuner.

  6. Jess A. says:

    Hm.. the html link didn’t work. Here is the firmware details page for the Zen MicroPhoto:

    I didn’t see the same warning on the Zen Vision:M, so I would think that that’s not part of the firmware upgrade for that particular player.

  7. Bye says:

    Dang, I hate it when haters provide anecdotal evidence.

    My beautiful little iPod (well, not so little these days) is going on 3 years old next week and never feels to make me happy as I can choose from 14 days of songs I have loaded in there. (Sure, it’s just a little 20 gigger, but it works for me.)

    I don’t mind that people have brand favorites, but there’s no need to be insulting and refer to people as “sheep” and whatnot. It’s like the goth girl who makes fun of the preppy girl’s prom dress and then goes home to cry knowing that her ghostly skin could never pull off a look like that.

  8. zentec says:

    Please. The Apple iPod haters are getting as annoying as the Apple iPod religious zealots. Give it a rest.

    Nevertheless, why would *anyone* want to record FM radio? Isn’t the reason you purchased a portable MP3 player is so you could listen to your music on your terms without annoying disk-jerkies and music selected out of a boardroom by three overweight bald guys whose sole criteria is how much of a “buy” the record company made to advertise the concert? If you want to listen to FM on the go, walk over to Dollar General, pluck down a greenback and walk out with a (very) cheap FM Walkman clone.

  9. Mike_ says:

    zibby, iPod’s market share was as high as 92.1% as recently as 24 months ago. I’m no statistician, but I think this might explain why you see more people complaining about iPod than any other portable MP3 player. I’ve had mine for 2 years, and it still works fine. I’ve even dropped it a few times. As an added bonus, I don’t have to make disparaging remarks (e.g. “sheep”) about other device owners just to feel better about my choice of MP3 player.

    Jess A., I figured it was an auto-update. If you have to actively seek out and download the firmware, and the “no more FM recording” change is clearly labeled, then I have less of a problem with it. Although I do think it’s slimy to force users to choose between keeping an advertised feature and applying bug fixes.

  10. Mike_ says:

    zentec, I mostly listen to NPR these days. I would love to be able to pause, rewind and record live programming. Not sure what kind of jurisdiction the RIAA has over Car Talk, but apparently it’s enough to ensure consumers are never able to hit pause when they run into the grocery store for a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.

  11. jthree says:

    Warning users before they apply the “update” does not fix their potential liability. They have removed an advertised feature and if you don’t consent you no longer are entitled to bug fixes for your device. I doubt very seriously they will have two update files from now on – one for the people who no longer have FM recording and one for those who declined the removal.

  12. kerry says:

    Ah, Mike_ makes a great point. Never even occurred to me to use FM recording like a Tivo. Too bad Creative is caving to pressure against it. I’m pretty sure there are other FM-recording players out there, anyone know what they are or own one?

  13. missdona says:

    I’ve used the FM Recording feature on my Zen Vision M a couple of times. It works well. I’m not downloading the update.

    I ditched the ipod for the Zen Vision M, because of its ability to play nice with Tivo and Divx files.

  14. Hey kerry, that’d be the Archos Gmini. I have a 400, now there’s a 402.

    I’m no Apple hater, I just could not figure out any possible reason to buy a significantly more expensive product with significantly less functionality. When I bought my player, the video iPod was still just a rumor on the horizon. My Archos plays videos (the new ones record video as well), has a 20 gig hard drive(the new ones are bigger), a nice color screen, records in high quality .wav via a built in mic or line in, receives and records FM (albeit with a $10 add-on remote/FM tuner), etc., etc. All this for, at the time, $250.

  15. Funklord says:

    Ah the joys of EULAs and DRM. Always remember that if you “buy” something with a EULA or DRM that no, you don’t really own it, and at any point, the terms you bought it under can be completely changed with no notice and no recourse on your part.

  16. zibby says:

    Well, I apologize for the “sheep” comment, but you really don’t understand the condescension and disbelief with which my decision was treated by my iPod owning friends – normal and decent people all, but slightly irrational when it came to this issue. Ironic, I suppose, when their very complaints led me to choose the product I did. Anyway, I’ve never had an annoying my-consumer-goods-are-better-than-yours outlook on life, but I do take a small sense of satisifaction in this admittedly inconsequential matter. And I was driven to it, I tell you!

  17. First off, let me just comment that when I first read this, I, like many of you all, was completely outraged. I was certainly under the impression that recording off of the Radio was “Fair Use” as determined by the same court ruling back in the eighties that allowed the home recording of VHS tapes.

    So I went browsing on the web and did a little searching, and I came up with two things. Recently, a cross-party push for legislation called the “Perform Act of 2006” which seeks to limit the rebroadcasting of Digital Radio.

    Well that’s OK, I thought. FM Radio isn’t digital radio…

    But it soon will be. There is a new type of radio service that’s being developed for IBOC called Ïn-band on-channel” which will effectively turn FM Radio into digital radio and cause it to fall under the restrictions of the Perform Act of 2006– I suspect that the removal of the feature from the creative zen is to anticipate this.

  18. er, not developed for IBOC, I meant to say, “There is a new type of radio service that’s being developed CALLED IBOC…”

  19. Mike_ says:

    zibby, Apple didn’t sell 59 million iPods by tricking people into buying a $300 piece of junk because their friends told them to. It really is a brilliantly-designed device with an elegant software companion, iTunes. If someone asked, I’d recommend the iPod for sure. Not to be condescending, but because I genuinely like mine.

    Also, I have a PC on my desk next to my Mac. I cut my teeth on MS-DOS 5.0, and grew up on Windows systems. These days, I very much prefer my Mac. If you ask me what kind of system you should buy, I’ll steer you towards Apple. And no, I’m not looking down my nose at you.

    If your friends tell you, “Dude, you should get an iPod. I really like mine,” and your first instinct is to buy “anything but an iPod”, maybe you should find new friends. :-)

  20. zibby says:

    Mike, most of these early iPod adopters I’m talking about were also Mac owners – that’s probably not a coincidence, and it probably explains the emotional investment in the brand. I didn’t ask their advice and do the opposite, I just factored in their experiences when making a decision. As far as computers go, I don’t much care what it is these days as long as I can play Counter Strike on it – but I do have good memories of the Apple II.

  21. kerry says:

    Hey, while we’re talking about sheep who buy ipods, can anyone tell me if any of the Creative or Archos players work on Mac? Last I checked they didn’t, but I haven’t been paying attention for a year or two. That might also explain your friends’ fondness for their iPods, since they don’t really have other options.

  22. Harvey Birdman says:

    Tangent ahead: Missdonna, how did you get your Zen to play nice with the Divx and Tivo files? Got a particular site you can point us Zen-ers to if we’re looking for pull different video file formats off the net and play them?

  23. My Creative Nano Zen has a cool little feature that I haven’t seen on iPods [at least the one’s I’ve seen].

    It has a line in option and a record function that I use to record tracks from stuff I only have on vinyl, directly to mp3 format.

  24. Aw cool, I just found out, I have the FM record feature too. Score!

  25. ikes says:

    Yet another reason never to buy Creative. I already own a dead Zen and a non-functioning Audigy Platinum. Two doorstops are all i need, thanks.

  26. missdona says:


    I don’t use a particular site to find video, I just use bittorrent.

    Divx files are an ::easy and quick:: drag and drop sync to the Zen Vision M. I’m using WMP 11 beta.

    TiVo files take a little more time. Download TiVo files with the TivoToGo software and sync it overnight, because it takes a bit to convert.

    Between that and the FM Tuner (I can listen to Opie and Anthony mornings), I don’t miss the iPod at all.