This month Verizon customers celebrated the launch of the Chocolate 3. The newest phone in the series comes as a flip instead of a slide, but it did add a few extra top-of-the-line features that blow most other phones out of the water.

One such feature is the inclusion of 1 GB of internal memory. This large amount of space is unique to any US phone that is not called the iPhone. The other feature is a built-in FM transmitter.

What the heck is that?

What FM Transmitters do

When my wife uses our iPod in the car, she carries a FM transmitter with her. Instead of having a direct “line in” to plug our iPod into the stereo, we plug the transmitter into the cigarette lighter and tell it to broadcast the music from the iPod at a frequency that’s not taken up by a radio station already.

Let’s use 98.5 as an example. Since there are no radio stations already broadcasting at that frequency in our area, we have no chance of interference. Conventional FM transmitters broadcast a few meters, just far enough for your car’s antenna to pick up. Thus we can listen to our iPod without worries and without someone else listening to our new radio station. The concept is the same for built-in FM transmitters in mobile phones.

Why Not Have Zunes in our Phones?

How convenient would it be to use our phones as music players also? But few people do because most people have music players already, with tons more memory than our phones. So what’s the point of having a music player in the phone then?

Exactly the point. So let’s boost the amount of available memory, and make it easy to listen to our music in cars and other convenient places.

The FM transmitter does that. Not only does it assist us in listening to music in more places, it also allows us to talk on the phone and have the speakerphone broadcast into the car stereo for handsfree use.

Worldwide Charm

While a brand new concept for phones in the US, Asia and Europe have already been making plenty of phones with this same feature. For good reason — it just makes sense!

Consumers are already paying $300+ just for a portable media player such as the Zune or the iPod, and another $100+ for a phone that includes similar capabilities. Why not put the two together?

Many new phones worldwide are coming out with the capability of holding up to 8 GB or more of external memory. So instead of shelling out $300 for a whole new media player, shell out $60 for a 8 GB media card to put in your phone.

In the coming years 8 GB will turn into 16, and 16 will turn into 32. It is inevitable that the chips will just keep expanding in capability to compete with rival companies. And when this happens, I predict portable media players will fade away into the darkness as they get replaced by a tiny chip that can do the same thing.

FM Transmitter = Innovative?

This is where the FM transmitter comes into play. Having it built into the phone itself gives the consumer another incentive to purchase the phone and a media card to put in it. Viola — the consumer is now carrying one device instead of two!

Since such a basic concept could conceivably change the entire market for mobile phones, I will say yes, the FM transmitter is an innovative concept. Hands-down. The real question is whether or not the consumers feel the same way.