Posts Tagged ‘iPod’

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

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 WebProNews.com 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

HD Radio on the iPhone? Yes, Indeed!

November 11, 2009

HDHD has been making its long-awaited first forays into the world of portable devices recently. Last July saw the release of the new model Microsoft Zune which was the first portable player with HD. In the meantime, clamoring has been heard across the Internet for HD on the iPhone. Well, my friends, today is your lucky day!

There is an app for that. Granted, it does require an external accessory, but the great thing is that HD has now come to the iPhone. For a quick demo done by iBiquity’s chief executive, Bob Struble, check out this video by The Wall Street Journal. I’ll wait here.

Nicely done. While I am not alone in wanting complete integration into the handset, this is a measure that will get us by until a future iPhone has it as a standard feature. Having HD accessibility like this would be fantastic for road trips, cross-country driving, and anything that might take you outside the range of wi-fi or a 3G data connection. Without those, streaming radio ceases to be an option.

Another wonderful thing here is the timing. With iBiquity and NPR Labs proposing a fourfold increase in HD signal strength to the FCC, there is a very good chance that the majority of reception issues will soon be a thing of the past. Combine that with the virtues of HD multicast content and things are looking rosy for HD!

Speaking of multicast options, tech writer Lauren Goode at the The Wall Street Journal mentions one segment of listeners in particular who will benefit:

Sports fans might also like what the app has to offer, since HD Radio allows users to tap into some team-specific channels through both AM and FM. Mr. Struble cites New Yorkers who have retired to Florida and are still able to listen to their favorite Yankees broadcasts as an example.

I’m not a sports fan myself, but I have just relocated across the country and can really see the value to someone living away from their longtime home.

I’m excited about this, and as an iPhone user, I am looking forward to trying it out!

Image: jamescridland / CC BY 2.0

Radio: Double Digit Growth and the Youth Demographic

November 4, 2009

childHere is more verification of the fact that young listeners still use radio as their medium of choice, and by a large margin too! The Council for Research Excellence (CRE), funded by The Nielsen Company, recently released the results of their Video Consumer Mapping Study. Despite the fact that the study’s focus was TV, there is still a goldmine of info pertinent to the world of radio.

Radio Business Report (RBR) brings us a summation:

“What you find is a much more complex view of what’s going on with audio than we have been led to believe. It really seems like the young group – they tend to be more audiophiles. They’re really into their audio. So, it’s not that they abandoned radio, per se, but they essentially augment with some of these portable media/digital media devices,”[Michael] Link [Chief Methodologist at The Nielsen Company] told RBR-TVBR.

Up until now, there was no differentiation made between media usage of the Internet and the time spent using other software or email. As any modern computer user knows, there is a gulf of difference between the two.

To break it into simplest terms, here are the four tiers of audio media usage as determined by Mr. Link’s analysis of the study’s data:

  1. broadcast & satellite radio (79.1% daily reach);
  2. CDs and tapes (37.1% daily reach);
  3. portable audio [iPods/MP3 players] ( 11.6% daily reach), digital audio stored on a computer such as music files downloaded or transferred to and played on a computer (10.4% daily reach), and digital audio streamed on a computer (9.3% daily reach);
  4. audio on mobile phones (<2% daily reach).

Wow. Radio has a 67.5 % lead over iPods and MP3 players? I can see that. About 75% of the time I listen to music on my iPhone, I’m streaming a station rather than listening to a music file. This gets really interesting when you look at the projections made in another RBR/RBTV piece:

According to updated projections from SNL Kagan released Monday (Nov. 2), radio online revenue will grow by double digits this year to $441 million, a 12 percent increase over 2008.

In 2010, online radio will hit $530 million, a 20 percent gain. The segment will continue its double-digit growth pace hitting $827 million by 2013.

So kids these days are still listening to radio, albeit on a variety of platforms that only came into being in years. Those platforms — Internet in particular — are experiencing explosive growth in ad revenues. The positive advertising figures in particular are heartening, coming as they do at a point when the U.S. is still firmly in the grip of a serious recession.

Double digit growth is not a phrase we’ve heard much of in recent months…

Image: flattop341 / CC BY 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

Monday Round Up

October 5, 2009

roundupRather than focus on a single topic, today I’d like to try something new. Today’s post will be a round up of some of the more interesting radio stories I have found recently. I’ll include a  link at the end of each entry to a full news article on the subject.

Leave us a comment and let us know if you like this approach. If so, I will make it a regular part of the programming.

First up is some sad news. Legendary DJ Mr. Magic passed away Friday morning from an apparent heart attack. For those who do not recognize him, he was the DJ who co-hosted the first all hip hop radio show on WBLS  in NYC way back in 1983 with Marley Marl. It’s hard to imagine the modern air waves without hip hop, but back then he was the only one doing it. Another radio icon has left the building.  [Gawker]

An interesting line of development is going on down under. Australians are working on something called “Yellowbird.” Yellowbird is supposed to turn on your radio and flash a light to automatically issue disaster alerts. As always, I am a fan of emergency radio and feel that this is a fantastic idea. Let’s hope they get the grants they are waiting on from the Australian government. [ABC News Australia]

On the gadget front, we have the debut of iHome’s iP88, a clock radio that finally has dual iPhone docks. FM for my morning listening and the ability to charge and play both my own and my wife’s iPhones? I call that a win! It’s amazing to me how long it seems to take to get simple, obvious functionality like this onto the market. Look at how long it took before we say integrated FM on the iPod Nano. [iPodNN]

Larry Wilson, who founded Citadel Broadcasting Corp, is moving back into the radio industry. He just closed a $40 million deal with CBS Radio to purchase three of their stations in the Portland, OR, area. This will bring his total in the city to five stations. Mr. Wilson cashed out of radio in 2001 when he sold Citadel, but I guess you can never escape once radio gets in your blood! [The Deal]

Image: Dr. Who / CC BY-ND 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

Car Radio: Ditching the CD Player, Keeping Radio

September 4, 2009

parrot_rki8400_20Parrot has taken the plunge. This leader in mobile phone technology and wireless solutions has brought us the first of a new wave of car radios.

While naysayers have expounded at length on the imminent demise of radio, I have always seen the CD player as being in far more danger of becoming extinct.

Parrot’s new in-dash radio supports my view by being one of the first “mechless” car radios. (“Mechless” describes a radio without a CD player mechanism.) In lieu of the CD player, the unit has iPod/iPhone docking and ways to access a number of species of modern media.

Amy Gilroy at Twice.com notes some of its features in her recent review:

The Parrot RKi8400 also has built-in stereo Bluetooth, a USB port and an SD card reader.  It uses a 2.4-inch color LCD TFT screen and a large dial for scrolling through album art and playlists.  When the cellphone rings, the system automatically switches to hands-free mode.

The single-DIN RKi8400 also offers Bluetooth calling features, such as voice recognition and automatic synchronization of names in a phonebook, without the need for voice training.

This seems to be a pretty well thought out device. I particularly like the little things such as the hidden compartment behind the faceplate for storing your iPod, SD, etc. Not only does it make it less tempting to burglars but it also keeps the portable units and their cords out of the way while driving. The hands free Bluetooth integration for cell phones also makes it much safer for drivers, particularly as more states are instituting fines for talking on mobiles or texting while driving.

Check out this Demo of the RKi8400, it certainly seems lke something out of The Jetsons! You might also want to check out the user guide for a more detailed look at its capabilities.

Image: Parrot Online Press Room