Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

HD Radio on the Slate for iPhone?

June 19, 2010

Apple has had quite the back and forth stance in regards to radio integration for their products. While the iPod Nano has its own radio receiver with live pause and iTunes tagging, the various iPhones and other iPods do not. That is something that may be changing soon.

According to Apple Insider it looks like Apple has been quietly visiting the patent office. Neil Hughes reports:

Entitled “Digital Radio Tagging Using an RF Tuner Accessory,” the application states that users could use a handheld device to scan all stations, or only for stations delivering high-quality digital audio content. Collecting a list of digital stations and the accompanying “raw digital data” broadcast with them would allow users to scan and search stations based on the content that is currently playing, or a number of other factors included in the data.

“Enhanced metadata and searching can provide the listener the ability to refine station choices without having to listen at length to any particular station, and further can facilitate tagging broadcast tracks for subsequent access and/or purchase,” the application reads.

Now, this does not seem at first glance to be groundbreaking. After all, the current incarnation of the iPod Nano has similar capabilities on its FM receiver. Still, we are not talking FM in this case; we are talking about HD in all its multi-channel glory, something that has been has been rumored since The Wall Street Journal reported on talks between Apple and HD developer iBiquity.

The filing of this patent goes a long way toward confirming my assertion in prior posts that the iPod line would be adopting HD radio. After all, HD integration was a huge selling point for Microsoft’s Zune and remains an area where it is admittedly superior to its Apple counterparts.

Image: Cave Canum / CC 2.0

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Internet Killing Radio? Not Likely, Says Fool

May 21, 2010

It is always worthwhile to take a look at what the investment community thinks of an industry when assessing its status. Not always right by a long shot, but it’s usually a decent indicator of that industry’s health. With that in mind, I try to look at what investors and their advisors are saying about radio on a fairly regular basis.

Rick Aristotle Munarriz of the high-profile investment website The Motley Fool finds the rumors of radio’s imminent demise to be grossly exaggerated. He responds to The New York Times article I wrote about a few days ago, and brings up some interesting points that I had overlooked.

As Internet connectivity reaches out for the highway, there are still concerns that will limit its adoption and subsequent growth. Highest on this list is the price of connectivity, a severe barrier in these economic times:

Connectivity doesn’t come cheap these days. Music developers aim first for Apple‘s (Nasdaq:AAPL) pricey iPhone before trickling down to other devices. A monthly iPhone plan through AT&T starts at $70, and that’s for just 450 voice minutes and no text messages. The pricing schedule ramps up quickly, topping out with a $120 plan for unlimited minutes and texting. AT&T does offer attractive family plans for additional lines, but we’re essentially talking about a device with a limited audience in terms of affordability.

I can attest to this as an iPhone user myself. Add in the fact that the coverage is spotty, particularly in high density areas like New York City, and you begin to see the picture. He also addresses the new trend of mobile hotspots. While these can potentially enhance in-car Internet access, the one he reviews carries a hefty $60 per month price tag after purchasing the unit. Not exactly a small subscription fee.

So in all honesty, it’s hard to imagine more than half of the country paying $100 or so for smartphone plans, or $60 a month for mobile hotspots. The potential market is big enough to dent terrestrial radio, but it won’t obliterate AM and FM altogether.

An astute observation. As bandwidth expectations and more sophisticated handsets increase, I think we will see these prices escalate rather than decrease. It is, as I stated in my prior post, great to be able to get my hometown and college radio stations from halfway across the country. It is also lucky for me that I am one of the ones who can afford to do so, a proposition that becomes much more expensive when you take it on the road.

Image: briser50 / CC BY 2.0

This Week: Radio and the iPad

April 6, 2010

The Easter weekend has now come and gone, and regardless of their religion, Apple fans around the world celebrated the coming of the long-awaited iPad. To some, it is a bold new step in the integration of computing with our day-to-day lives; to others it’s a flash in the pan that fills no definite niche. To the buying public, it’s the hip new thing.  This week, we are going to look at what it might be for radio.

Right out of the gate, media and entertainment companies are jumping in with both feet. The phenomenal success of the iPhone and its impact on media consumption make it a great bet. I’m an iPhone user and can say with certainty that it has had a huge effect on my own media consumption. (Right now I’m writing this in Cincinnati while streaming a New Orleans-based radio station on my iPhone and playing the output from my stereo system.)

Since this is the new gadget from Steve Jobs and company, the first thing on everybody’s mind is apps. Just take a look at what Corey Dietz is writing about on About.com:

CBS Radio is offering a customized audio application for the new iPad, released today. This new Radio.com app offers programming from CBS Radio and streaming partners like Yahoo! Music in addition to Last.fm’s scrobbling* technology and more.

For those of you not familiar with CBS Radio, that means over 550 professionally programmed music stations, plus dozens of other news, talk and sports stations from across the USA. They’ve been one of the pioneers of commercial radio as far as extending onto the web and mobile-based markets goes.

Of course there is also the public media side of the equation, and NPR is keeping to the fore as usual. Not only have they put out an app for the iPad, but they have also optimized their website for it as well.  Via Scott MacNulty at PC World:

But what if you don’t want to download the free iPad app? NPR has something for you: an iPad-optimized version of their Website that features an iPad-friendly audio player (which also has the neat “keep playing while I check out other sections” feature). The URL for the iPad-optimized version of NPR.org is iPad.npr.org (though NPR notes if you want to see this on your desktop you’ll have to use Chrome).

This all ties in well with the impression one gets of the iPad as a “lifestyle machine.” I see a lot of media and social media on it, but I must confess I’m still unsure about the gadget itself. It all comes down to the question, “Does it catch on, or is it a 21st Century Betamax?” We will all have a much firmer idea by the time we see its second or third iteration.

In the meantime, it’s exciting to see it finally on the market. As soon as I’m up to braving the lines, I need to go down to the Apple store and play with one. In the meantime, I’ll be spending this week focusing on its radio-oriented uses and applications.

Image: groovenite / CC BY-SA 2.0

Rumor Mill: Apple Developing FM Radio App for iPhone?

October 19, 2009

iphoneOkay, so, the most interesting tidbit of FM news coming out of the mobile device market recently has been the launch of Apple’s new version of the iPod Nano with its nifty integrated tuner. Fantastic stuff, and long overdue in my opinion. Still, it’s no secret that the iPhone and iPod Touch (or iTouch, as some call it) rule the roost when it comes to mobile. They also have access to the clear and present game changer: The App Store and direct iTunes access.

Now numerous websites have dissected the new iPhones and found that they do contain the hardware to receive FM. It is contained in their chipset, but is just not activated at this point. Speculation tends to run towards the idea that they are working on getting integrated tagging to work with iTunes Store. Then, in the classic words of The Who, we’re “Going Mobile!

Chris Maxcer at MacWorldNews comments on the need for a mobile iTunes store gateway, such as the one provided by the iPhone/iPod Touch, when coupled with FM in his recent column:

With an instant method for buying a new tune, I gotta believe a lot more people will buy a song while on the go — and while this most likely won’t happen while driving in a car already equipped with an FM radio, there’s always buying from the seat of a recumbent exercise bike at the local gym. Not only is this an instant sale for Apple and the artists, but it also has the tidy side effect of teaching consumers to buy songs while on the go through their mobile device.

And that is the reason this rumor is so compelling. The logic of the situation makes it a total win for Apple as they capitalize on the “free discovery” aspect of broadcast radio. Impulse buys and opt-ins are steadily being proven to generate more revenue that subscription models, part of the overall change in the business model that Internet and mobile tech is bringing about.

In simplest terms, as Mr. Maxcer said:

Apple’s move will better connect me to music, which will connect me to the store, which will connect me to buy.

We live in the age of access and immediate gratification. Apple has already proven that they are well aware of this and willing to cater to these qualities, and usually they do so pretty well. If this rumor turns out to be true, then they will have upped the quotient of both for their user base. If we are lucky, they will do it in time for the holidays.

Image: rbitting / CC BY 2.0

iPod Nano: Rekindling FM

September 24, 2009

nanoThe age of the portable MP3 player has long been heralded as the “death of radio.” Then again, so was television, and that was over half a century ago. We all see how that worked out. Today, I’d like to point out how these devices, and the iPod Nano in particular, herald the rebirth of radio.

It’s no secret that the iPod has been way out in front as the leader in portable music players, which is why I’ve always been slightly puzzled by their lack of an integrated FM receiver. That has changed with the advent of the new model Nano, and it’s a change that I welcome with open arms.

Seth Porges over at Popular Mechanics puts it beautifully:

Something odd has happened recently in my music-listening life. Two weeks ago I received the new fifth-generation iPod Nano. Since then, my once-rigid playlist of personal standards has suddenly been infiltrated by daily doses of NPR, college radio and the occasional classic rock riff. Yes, Apple has pushed me back into FM radio.

While the convenience of having total control over your personal playlist is a wonderful thing, it lacks surprises. It lacks that moment of discovery when you hear a song that grabs you by the lapels and shakes you, even though you know you’ve never heard the band playing it before.

I remember well discovering The White Stripes while sitting in the passenger seat of a VW Thing driving across town for a production meeting. It was like a breath of fresh air. Neither the driver nor I had even heard of the band at that point, and we sat eagerly waiting for the DJ to come on and back announce the name of the group. Since then I’ve added several of their discs to my collection.

That, my friends, is the truly powerful side of radio: the DJ who acts as music concierge bringing you new and exciting sounds that you would not have known otherwise.  Sure, Pandora is wonderful — I listen to it a lot as well — but its strength is in bringing you music that has similarity to what you already listen to. With radio, you can be blindsided by musical epiphanies from outside your usual spectrum and therein lies one of its greatest strengths. In addition, to return to Mr. Porges’ commentary, there is another significant aspect that cannot be ignored:

Radio has another important thing going for it. In an era of mounting monthly bills, radio is one of the last truly free forms of media. Radios themselves are very cheap, and they require no subscriptions or fees of any sort.

Will the new Nano’s radio provide a significant boost in Arbitron ratings? Maybe not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it helps introduce a new generation—and reintroduce an old one—to FM radio’s unique listening format.

As to Arbitron ratings, since most portable players are used with headphones, I doubt that their Portable People Meters (PPM) will register much change. What I am curious about is what happens to ratings in the markets using Nielsen for their metrics. Will we see a shift there as the new Nano becomes more and more widespread?

Image: fhke / CC BY-SA 2.0

iPod Nano Gets Integrated Radio Tuner!

September 11, 2009

nanonewIn a move I have personally been awaiting, Apple has added radio functionality to the new version of the iPod Nano.  Here’s a quote from their press release posted on Gizmodo:

iPod nano now has a built-in FM radio with live pause and iTunes Tagging. Live pause lets iPod nano users pause and resume playing their favorite FM radio shows. iTunes Tagging is great when users hear a song they like, they can simply tag it, and then preview and purchase that song when they sync to the iTunes software.

I think this says a lot. So far during its lifespan, the iPod line has seen its FM receiver peripheral become one of its most popular add ons. Integrating that functionality into its basic unit shows their awareness of the public desire to access broadcast radio as well as Internet streams. With their dominance of the portable music player market, this could well (and I hope does) create a domino effect among other manufacturers.

Add in the fact that the new version of iTunes has integrated Facebook and Twitter support and you can see a whole new era beginning with this move. The buying public is not often overly concerned with much beyond “Does it work?” and “Does it do what I want it to do?”. With a  built-in FM receiver and integrated social functions, I’d be willing to bet that this unit will fulfill both of those needs.

Now we need this for the iPhone…

Image: Courtesy of Apple’s Online Press Room

AOL Radio Application Wins iPhone Design Award

June 16, 2008

I am sure that there must be some celebration going on right now at both AOL and CBS Radio. Last Wednesday, the AOL Radio application for the iPhone won a developer design award at Apple’s annual ceremony at the Worldwide Developer Conference.

Coming hot on the heels of the announcement of the long awaited 3G iPhone, this one is sure to get some spotlight time in the gadget-oriented segments of the media. The application itself will debut along with Apple’s App Store as a free download. (Continuing the long radio tradition of freely accessible content.)

Via iPhone Atlas:

AOL Radio for iPhone leverages iPhone’s Core Location framework to detect a user’s location and automatically display CBS RADIO stations nearest to the user. Additionally, AOL Radio for iPhone automatically adapts to the current connection speed of the device providing low-bandwidth streams when on a cellular network versus higher quality audio for WiFi connections.

With the massive popularity of the iPhone both stateside and overseas, this is quite a feather for the two companies to put in their collective cap. The ability to auto-detect local stations no matter where you are will be a huge bonus for frequent travelers.

One small step for the iPhone, one giant leap for radio! Now I just have to convince my wife to let me work an iPhone into our household budget…

Photo courtesy of Miss Karen, used under its Creative Commons license