iPhone Again: A Cutting Edge Radio Revolution

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The iPhone once again rears its sleek little head now that the craziness following the 3G’s release seems to have abated. Despite the iPocalypse on its release, the newest of the Apple family is already making waves. As with the Internet, those waves are based more on the applications it runs than the hardware itself.

Technology consultant for CBS Larry Magrid gives us a terrific review of the three main iPhone radio applications including a podcast recording of listening to New York- and Jamaica-based stations on it while driving around Silicon Valley.

With San Jose Mercury News technology reporter Troy Wolverton at the wheel, I plugged the iPhone into the auxiliary jack of his car radio while we drove around the San Jose, Calif. area listening to WCBS Newsradio from New York, a radio station from Kingston, Jamaica and a customized channel through Pandora.

Even at 66 miles an hour on U.S. Highway 101, the sound was better than what you’d expect from a clear FM signal. I also tuned into my local KCBS news station where the sound quality was definitely better than the station’s terrestrial AM signal.

As is frequently the case, and as I stated at the outset, it is usually the applications that are of primary importance in cases like this. Having already determined the sound quality the cost and efficiency of the programs is the next thing t look at:

There are at least three “live radio” software applications available, not only for the new iPhone, but for the older iPhone and the iPod Touch that have been updated with Apple’s new 2.0 software (free for iPhone users and $10 for iPod Touch users). Two of the programs: AOL Radio and Pandora are free while Tuner costs $4.99.

AOL Radio “Powered by CBS Radio” allows you to listen to more than 150 CBS music, news, talk and sports stations across the United States, as well as customized stations created specifically for online listening. By default, it uses the iPhone or iPod Touch’s location awareness capabilities to play stations in your area, but you can also use it for out-of-town stations.

Pandora doesn’t carry broadcast stations but allows users to create their own music programming by selecting their favorite artists or genres. It’s a very creative concept that can result in programming that is highly customized yet, unlike listening to your own MP3 files, still gives you the serendipity of not knowing which song will come next.

The other program, called Tuner, lets you select from thousands of Internet stations around world or type in the URL of any station that may not be included in its rather exhaustive list.

Now we seem to be heading towards those massive evolutionary leaps I have been predicting for a while now. One of radio’s biggest strengths has always been ubiquity of access to its content. In the age of the iPhone it would seem that reach is magnified.

Phto courtesy of spcoon, used under its Creative Commons license

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