Posts Tagged ‘iphone’

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


Radio’s Move to Mobile

June 7, 2010

I’ve said it repeatedly since the debut of this blog: the mobile market is one of the radio industry’s most important areas to focus on.  In the two-and-a-half years since I’ve been writing for Radio2020, I’ve repeatedly returned to the topic. The meteoric rise in both capabilities and adoption of the Droid, Blackberry and iPhone alone  prove my point; just look at the plethora of  radio apps for them.

The debut of the iPad and its competitors adds a new dimension to this evolution. While new to the market, it expands the range of  what is considered “mobile,” while attempting to create a new niche in the existing array of available products. If sales are any indication, they seem to be doing a good job of it. It’s just the latest step away from the traditional computer.

Jeanette Borzo of The Wall Street Journal wrote a terrific column on the subject from which I’d like to share a few key points:

Earlier this year, Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) Chief Technology Officer Padmasree Warrior said she expects 1 trillion mobile devices to be connected to the Internet by 2013, compared with just 500 million in 2007.

On Wednesday morning, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.’s (DWA) Jeffrey Katzenberg said he believes Apple’s iPad and other upcoming tablet devices represent the future of computers and media consumption, especially among younger people. Katzenberg himself said he no longer uses a laptop, relying instead on an iPad and a BlackBerry cellphone. “The laptop is yesterday’s news,” he said.

For some, moving beyond the PC era–which many say started when Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) went public in 1985–means a rejuvenation of business.

“Mobile is the second coming of radio,” said Vivian Schiller, president and chief executive at National Public radio, adding that Internet-based radio gives listeners more choices. “All the devices are so easy to take with you, and you can listen to any stream you want. When I’m in my car, I no longer have to be restricted to my local radio station.”

Another aspect that I find fascinating is that  due to the nature of these devices, there is a native prejudice in favor of audio content — things you can be entertained by while driving or walking. As the level of ubiquity increases for mobile devices, Ms. Schiller’s “second coming of radio” comment above becomes more and more valid.

The two things that are most important to look at are the decoupling of the Internet from the computer, and radio’s embrace and leveraging of that same Internet. Is your radio station ready?

Image: William Hook / CC 2.0

iHeartRadio: Commercial Free Subscription Service

June 2, 2010

Smartphones have done so much for radio listeners. Your local station is often available wherever a wi-fi signal can be accessed, for one thing. Add in a lot of the perks that are becoming standard on radio apps such as tagging and time shifting, and there is no doubt that these mobile devices are a boon to us.

Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio app is a great example, and one that has recently gotten a facelift. It now sports over 750 channels, on-demand traffic reports and a brand new array of subscription content.

The idea of subscription-based content is not new; in fact, it is the backbone of satellite radio’s approach. Finding a successful way to monetize in that fashion is another matter. Still, their initial effort is in the realm of talk radio — a format whose following is loyal to say the least. I could easily see talk aficionados falling in love with both the accessible archives and the on-demand gratification aspects.

Here is a statement pulled from the press release on BusinessWire:

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to keep our audiences connected to their favorite talent and programming,” said Evan Harrison, EVP Clear Channel Radio and President of the Company’s digital unit. “The addition of commercial-free programs and hundreds of new stations delivers an unprecedented level of choice.”

“Fans have embraced our subscription model for anytime access to our top personalities,” said Brian Lakamp, Premiere Radio’s EVP of Digital Media. “We’re excited to add value by extending anywhere access. Our subscribers can now stay connected on-the-go at no additional charge on iheartradio.”

It looks like they’re off to a running start. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one because I’m curious as to whether we will see continued growth or a slow down and plateauing effect once the app has been out for a while. As always, attempts to find viable ways to monetize without alienating the audience is worth observing. You never know where the next breakthrough will be coming from.

Image: derrickkwa / CC 2.0

iUK: BBC Radio on the iPhone

May 24, 2010

Well, it looks like the BBC is jumping into the iPhone arena — hardly shocking since streamed audio is huge on the Apple handset. Just look at the success of iHeartRadio, Pandora, AOL Radio and other audio/radio apps. Combine that huge listener base with America’s love of British TV — Dr. Who is the number one television show purchased on iTunes, for example — and they have a tempting market just waiting.

The new app, BBC Listener, does not provide access to all BBC radio programming. Rather, it supplies a selection of programs mostly from Radio 4. These can be streamed for immediate listening or downloaded for later. Still, for anglophiles, even that will be a treat. It also has a nice interface; I particularly like the old-fashioned radio tuner it displays when you turn the iPhone on its side. The Beeb has a nice video walk-through of the app up on YouTube so you can see how it looks and operates before purchasing. [BBC Listener Promo – YouTube]

So, you really want your BBC radio. You pay $2.99 for the app — a reasonable price — and you’re good to go, right? Wrong. The app uses the iPhone’s in-ap subscription function to charge the $12.99 per quarter subscription fee. Even that sounds reasonable to me, but I’m a longtime fan of British media. PaidContent:UK‘s Robert Andrews notes the rather large flaw in his recent review:

But BBC Listener may not be all that good value – many of the shows contained within are available as free downloadable podcasts, as well as for web playback, no matter where in the world listeners are. For example, here’s BBC World New America reporter Matt Frei’s Americanashow, all 51 episodes of it.

Maybe some users will be happy to pay to have all this wrapped inside a single app, but there’s another stumbling block – NPR in the States does at least as good a job at radio news and documentary, and all its apps, like its podcasts, are free.

So, is it the new British Invasion or is will the BBC’s monetization efforts flounder? What do you think?

Image: nikiv116893 / CC BY 2.0

Radio Streaming Coming to the iPhone

May 14, 2010

I’m an admitted iPhone addict. I’m also an avid audiophile and have my iPhone stocked with radio apps. I’ve got a fearsome array of music I can listen to using the music player, but when it comes to streaming my favorite radio stations, I have problems. One of the huge drawbacks of the iPhone is that only the audio player can operate in the background while you are using another app.

As Paul Riismandel said recently on Radio Survivor:

This restriction is sort of tolerable on a small mobile device like the iPhone, but it’s far more annoying on the iPad. Imagine if your laptop or netbook wouldn’t let you listen to streaming stations while word processing or web browsing.

Well, it looks like the advent of the iPad has brought great news for radio listeners: true multitasking in the next OS update. While I doubt I’ll try it, Riismandel has an entertaining thought on the upgrade later in his post:

When the new OS drops later this summer iPad and iPhone 3GS users finally will be able to run their favorite streaming audio app in the background while using other apps. You might even be able to run two audio apps at the same time to test your bandwidth and tolerance for cacophony.

Unfortunately for me, the update will not work on first generation iPhones or on the 3G. 3GS owners and iPad users will have cause to rejoice, but I will need to upgrade to get the benefits of the new OS. Since my favorite stations outside of Cincinnati are in Boston, New York and New Orleans, I may very well make the leap.

Image: Screencap of Radio Apps on my iPhone

Spark Radio Comes To The iPhone

February 26, 2010

Spark Radio is a tool that anyone who spends time on the road will love — provided they happen to be an iPhone user, that is.

It’s the 21st Century and almost all terrestrial radio stations stream their content over the Internet. It’s just common sense these days. Of course, while this allows one to tune into stations from around the world, it does not bring them the ubiquity of access that broadcast has. Drive time is a particularly apt example of this as anyone trapped on Washington, D.C.’s Beltway can attest.

Enter the smartphone. Mobile technology is allowing access to Internet-based radio to blossom at an amazing rate, and the iPhone as the most popular handset is a significant part of this. A consistently growing array of apps is providing better and better access to Internet radio on an almost daily basis.

Case in point: Spark Radio [$5.99 in the iTunes Store].

Spark is an Internet Radio app that is slated to include 30,000 stations by this coming April, and it has a third of that already.  Organized by genre and category, it makes it easy to find the type of programming you want. But that’s not all, as David Piece at Mobile Beat reports:

Spark Radio also has a great GPS feature. It can figure out where you are and then display the stations near you. The advantage here is that the quality tends to be higher than the radio signals, and there’s no hunting through static to find the real stations. You can also check to see recent songs or programming on a given station, to see if it’s a good station for you.

Frequent radio listeners will like the ability to save stations as their favorites. There’s also a fully-baked Web browser right within the app, somewhat solving the multitasking problem so many iPhone users have – if you need to look something up, but still want to listen to the radio, you can do it right from within Spark Radio.

That last quality is something essential. Due to the architecture of the iPhone, you cannot run an app and browse the web simultaneously. A workaround of this nature is important because it prevents fragmenting of the experience. Listening is nowhere near as appealing if you have to tune out in order to multitask.

The beauty of this is for those on the move. If you are travelling, you can either use the iPhone’s 3G to stay connected to your favorite stations and programming back home or use the GPS to find appealing local stations as you travel. Either way, it’s a huge win.

Image: Spark App Store Entry / Fair Use: Reporting

This American Life Experiments with Paid iPhone App [Updated]

February 3, 2010

[Many Thanks to @MGallivan over at NPR who corrected my mistake in the original version of this post. I had originally attributed the app development to NPR. As he told me over Twitter: “@radio2020 TAL is actually not NPR. It’s produced by WBEZ & dist. by PRI. A group called PRX made the app w/ BEZ. Enough letters for ya? ;)” Thanks for catching me there! -George]

National Public Radio (NPR) has had a huge lead in working with social media as it applies to radio. Its non-commercial basis has allowed a lot more flexibility in experimenting online, allowing it to act as a sort of crucible for new media. This is important for those of us in commercial radio to keep up with; many of their techniques and concepts are adaptable to our industry as well.

Now one of their most well known programs is pushing further into engaging the world of Internet capable  mobile users. I think it should go on your “things to watch” list. Here’s a synopsis from GigaOm:

“This American Life,” the well-loved personal narrative public radio show, today released a paid iPhone application for on-demand access to its nearly 15-year-old archive. It’s a good fit; the show’s demographic ostensibly overlaps quite well with iPhone owners, and its podcast often tops the iTunes charts. The price of Ira Glass’ dulcet monotones in your pocket? $2.99.

Now there are a few things to note in order to see the big picture:

  • The episodes are free online for several days after they first air.
  • Older episodes are available on iTunes for $0.99 each.
  • This American Life is streamed live online in addition to its syndicated broadcasts across the nation.
  • According to the GigaOm article, the bandwidth needed for all this is quite expensive: “500,000 episode downloads a week at a cost of more than $100,000.”

With an established community behind it,  This American Life has certainly got enough of a foundation to make this forray. I do wonder how the cashflow aspect will play out, though. Even non-commercial radio needs to have operating expenses covered, including the ever-increasing costs of bandwidth. Also, if massive adoption occurs, will it adversely impact the revenue generated by the 99-cent episodes? For an iPhone-using TAL fan, it’s a no brainer: all 15 years of archives for the cost of three old shows I’m sure will be the choice for many.

Another thing to consider is how the established community will react. The Internet has a history of  not being kind most of the time when free services begin to charge. In this regard, having the shows available for a limited time at no cost serves to keep good will even among those that might otherwise object fiercely to paying. To my way of thinking, that is fantastic strategy. I’m very curious to see if it plays out as well as I think it will.

Monetizing radio content on mobile platforms is a high priority in our industry. Each time an experiment is made in this direction, there is something to be learned. Besides, I always love it when I get to report on something like this. I’ve watched palpable advancement on so many fronts  in the past two years of writing this blog and it’s been amazing throughout.

Image: This American Life Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

Will the iPad Be A Step Forward For Internet Radio?

January 29, 2010

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

CES: Bringing the Radio Tech or 2010!

January 8, 2010

This week is the annual technological frenzy known as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where all the cutting-edge entertainment gear gets shown off for the first time. It is a window into the wonderful world of “What’s next?”

While I’m unable to make it there this year, I am keeping constant track of the news coming out of the show. Let me tell you it looks like a lot of leaps forward for radio as we enter the twenty-teens.

Bryan Chaffin of Mac Observer reports no less than eight new iHome gadgets, many of which sport FM capabilities, as well as the range of Internet-based radio and audio options that one would expect. As an iPhone user myself, I’m particularly excited about this one:

iP49 Portable Rechargeable Studio Series Audio System with Alarm Clock & FM Radio for iPhone/iPod: The name just about says it all. The iP49 features the high-end clock radio functions found in an iHome home unit, and gives it an audio boost with the inclusion of Bongiovi Acoustics’ patented Digital Power Station technology and four neodymium compression drivers. Add EQ for deep bass and audio clarity, and a remote control that handles the menu functions on both iPod and iPhone models, and you have the perfect on-the-go stereo. (Available later in 2010, with pricing to be announced.)

Sounds like the 21st Century equivalent of the “boom box” radios of the ’70s and ’80s. Sounds great for yard parties, picnics, job sites, and so forth. Never underestimate the uses of portability.

Then there is HD radio. A few days ago, I posted about this probably being a big breakout year or HD, and from the sound of things at CES, it looks like I might well have been correct. Chris Crum over at just put up a quick review of the stupendous array of HD offerings:

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, there will be a total of 25 new HD Radio products introduced, making for this technology’s broadest product category coverage ever. This year, 15 automotive brands will produce over 80 vehicle types, and 36 of them will include HD Radio Technology, according to iBiquity Digital.

So, not only are we seeing a wave of new products, but almost half of the cars produced by those 15 auto brands will contain HD as well. I’d say that’s terrific news. Volvo, Jaguar, Audi, Ford, Lincoln, Mercedes Benz and others are rapidly helping to cement HD as an expected option for commuters everywhere. Mr. Crum goes on to report:

At least three new vehicles are on display at the event at the HD Radio booth – the Ford 2011 Taurus SHO, Volkswagen 2010 MY Golf TDI, and 2010 Scion xB. The first ever factory installed implementation of HD Radio enabled iTunes Tagging will occur at CES and will be showcased by Ford. A number of after-market solutions from various brands are being displayed as well.

So, portability and mobility seem to be the underlying thrust of this year’s radio offerings so far. I’ll endorse that wholeheartedly since I believe them to be key factors in our continuing growth as an industry.

I’ll be checking back on the reporting from CES as it rolls in, and hope to share more interesting radio developments. If you are attending CES, we would love to hear from you.

Image: tigerdirect / CC BY 2.0

iTunes Tagging Factory Installed by Ford

December 30, 2009

There is no doubt that one of the tech advances changing the way we listen to and interact with music is the relatively new concept of tagging. I bet you own one of the plethora of radios, HD Radios or iPod-derived devices that have this function where you can “tag” a song while listening to it so you can purchase it later through iTunes. In this Internet-driven age of instant gratification, it is a powerful sales tool precisely because of the convenience it offers to listeners.

In a move that should be applauded, Ford has announced that it will be making iTunes tagging a factory-installed  feature on some models as part of its voice-controlled Sync system. Introduced in 2007, Sync is a an entertainment and telecommunications system vaguely reminiscent of Star Trek. Brent Snavely at Freep tells us a bit more:

Ford said iTunes tagging on its next generation of Sync will be able to hold up to 100 songs. Then, when an iPod is connected to iTunes, the customer can approve the purchase and download the songs.

Ford isn’t saying yet whether HD Radio and iTunes tagging capability will be standard or optional.

“HD Radio and iTunes song tagging will be part of an infotainment package launching next year,” and additional details will be announced by Ford at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 7, said Ford spokesman Alan Hall.

I love watching things as they ease their way into mainstream adoption. With all of the shakeups in the way we communicate and interact with media that have occurred over the past decade, it has been a dizzying ride. Just the advent of the smartphone alone has created a substantive change in the way we interact with each other and with media. Now comes the fun part, watching things like this occur.

It was not that long ago that seeing someone with an iPhone was notable and unusual. It was the new cool toy, something affordable only by a few. Now it is the most popular handset in the U.S. and the App Store is making money hand over fist. With Ford’s introduction of factory installed tagging, we are seeing another jump into everyday life.

Welcome to the future!

Image: Eye of Einstein / CC BY 2.0