Radio Evangelist

Thoughts of a Evangelist for Radio in all its forms

HD Radio and the iPhone – Not Quite There Yet

Posted by Steve on November 10, 2009

Ibiquity and a company called Gigaware yesterday announced an accessory for the iPhone/iPod Touch that brings HD radio to the device. You can pick up this little add-on at your local Radio Shack store (whatever happened to their plan to just call themselves “The Shack?) for about $80.

Here’s a link to The Wall Street Journal’s Lauren Goode article and her interview with Bob Struble, CEO of Ibiquity.

This accessory has generated a fair amount of buzz around the internets. Many people are saying that one of the major selling points of the new Zune is the HD radio inside. Before today, I can’t remember anyone saying that.
GigawareRemote_270x183.jpg
This accessory is very similar to the analog FM radio accessory that has been available for iPods for years. It plugs into the accessory connector on the device. There’s a tuning control that you can use to navigate the radio’s presets which connects to the device through a wire. There’s also an app that you install from the iTunes store – free, but necessary for the HD Radio to function. The HD Radio dongle has an iTunes tagging feature so that you can identify songs you wish to purchase later by clicking a button on the tuning control.

I own the standard iPod FM radio; it is useful on trips when I want to monitor local radio and I am not in a rental car. It has an RDS display right on the iPod – which highlights to me how poorly stations are at implementing this potentially extremely valuable tool.

So – the questions are, will people pay $80 for a radio in their iPhone when they can purchase a portable HD radio for $50? And – do people really care about having a broadcast radio receiver in their iPhone/Touch when there are so many other options available to them via iPhone/Touch apps?

My guess is that until the software that drives the HD radio is integrated with a streaming radio application in such a way that I can choose my over-the-air HD radio station or my streaming audio channel with the click of a pre-set, this won’t be a very strong offering. There’s a lot of potential power in this app that resides on the iPhone’s desktop. Smart folks will figure out how to tap into it.

The physical clunkiness of the connection to the phone may also deter people from using it. The connection of the original iPod FM radio is almost exactly the same and I find that it’s annoying. The wires get in the way.

However, it’s a start. Let’s see how this goes – maybe we’ll be able to pick these up cheaply on eBay after Christmas!

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