Will the iPad Be A Step Forward For Internet Radio?

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Like many people who are already Mac or iPhone users, I was eager for Apple’s announcement yesterday about the new iPad. The new tablet, designed to fill the niche between smartphones and laptops, has been one of the most awaited products since the original iPhone. The question on mind was quite simply, “What can this do for radio?”

Mobile has been a huge boon for radio. Streaming stations are now accessed with an unprecedented ubiquity. With the iPad being touted as a portable device, this trend, at first glance, seems to be continuing. However, as an iPhone user myself, I do see at least one clear and present issue that could well impede its positive impact: connectivity.

AT&T, Apple’s mobile partner and sole carrier for the iPhone, has repeatedly come under fire for failing under pressure when it comes to bandwidth. New York and San Francisco in particular have problems with this due to the high rate of usage in those cities. You see, the iPhone sucks up ten times as much bandwidth as other smartphones, and often AT&T’s network groans under the strain. Even here in Cincinnati, I experience frequent dropped calls, and often get shunted down to the Edge Network (the next speed tier down from 3G) or lose data connectivity completely.

Matthew Shaer at the Christian Science Monitor comments in his recent article:

Even AT&T has admitted that its New York network is “performing at levels below [its] standards.” The problem, according to the carrier, is that iPhone users are data guzzlers. On average, the feature-heavy phone gulps down 10 times the network capacity of other smart phones. And as users browse the Web, watch videos, download apps, and stream music on their iPhones, the device has strained AT&T’s network.

Since the preview info on the iPad shows only AT&T-based options for connectivity, we can assume that the “straining network” will be put under even further pressure with its release.

I hope that we do see a robust improvement in the network. There is a lot of appeal in being able to sit and read the news on a nine-inch screen while listening to radio online. I’m cautiously optimistic, but it looks like a really nice little device, one that could conceivably cause another quantum leap in radio’s reach. Still, a lot will be riding on the connection. If you can’t get a data connection, you can’t stream radio.

Oh, and one last thought. To really be useful, it will need a decent battery life, especially if streaming over 3G instead of wi-fi. I can get about an hour of listening with a fully charged iPhone. In order to really be a boost for radio, it will need to do better than that.

Lots of pros, lots of cons, and a paucity of hard data. I guess we will know in sixty days when it gets released. If I end up getting one, I’ll review its radio-oriented capabilities here.

Image: Apple Online Press Resources / Rights: Apple

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6 Responses to “Will the iPad Be A Step Forward For Internet Radio?”

  1. Tom Says:

    I have to ask what we mean when we say “Mobile has been a huge boon for radio.” I agree that listening to radio via mobile phone has become fairly popular, but I wonder if that is enough to call it a “huge boon”. Is anybody making any money (at all?) from the listening?

    Granted, it is early days and listener volume has to occur before revenue is possible. So perhaps I’m just nit picking words. A huge boon to traffic – yes. A huge boon to radio – not yet.

    By the way – have you noticed that almost all complaints about the AT&T network come from iPhone users, not from other AT&T customers? There is a reason for that. (not to suggest that AT&T is blameless)

  2. George Williams Says:

    Hey Tom, thanks for chiming in. I’m actually pulling together a post about radio revenues and mobile which should be online soon. I look forward to your comments on it.

    As to your final comment about most of the AT&T complaints coming from iPhone users, I was unaware of this. I don’t suppose you’d have a link handy that you could share? It’s an angle that would most useful, and now that you’ve mentioned it one I curious to look into!

  3. Tom Says:

    Don’t believe everything you read (or hear directly from “experts”), but here’s an article from one usually credible source.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/business/13digi.html

    I’ve heard informed speculation that problems may lie the radio hardware and/or interaction between s/w on phone and s/w in AT&T networks. While it sounds plausible, it is probably little better than speculation.

    In general, the iPhone seems to have troubles in all countries (see O2 in UK), so I don’t think it is fair for us to blame only the carriers.

  4. George Williams Says:

    Fascinating stuff, and especially pertinent to me since I am both an iPhone user and tend to write about how radio is moving into the mobile arena. Thanks for the resource and thanks for joining the conversation, I love it when people ring things like this to the table!

  5. matt cardinal Says:

    How many I-gadgets do you need to but before you can listen to the radio. The duplication of harware is almost matched by the restrictions on software.

    This piece on the ICAR says it all

    http://secretlovechild.com/science-a-technology/53-analysis/50-the-icar

  6. George Williams Says:

    Actually Matt its not a metter of “how many gadgets” you need to buy, but rather that radio be ubiquitous and available in all the available gadgets. A small but highly important difference.

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