Radio over Satellite

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kenwood DNX9980HD and DNX6980HD incorporate HD Radio and Pandora Internet Radio

The Kenwood  DNX9980HD ($2,000 suggested retail), shown at International CES in January 2011, is the company's first multimedia model to incorporate HD Radio and the Pandora Internet Radio link as built-in features.Particularly a handful of in-dash navigation decks that give you touch control over Pandora from the radio screen. All the new in-dash navigation units include free live Navteq traffic. They are satellite and HD Radio-ready and let you make phone calls without losing your view of the navi map due to a split screen function. The exception is the DNX9980 that has built-in HD Radio (where others are only HD Radio-ready). It also has Parrot stereo Bluetooth and voice command control and twin iPod AV control. You operate iPod video and iPod audio as separate sources.All seek, search and "thumbs up/down" functions are replicated on the faceplate of the DNX9980HD, and the 6.95-inch touchscreen display shows full-color album art, song title, album and artist.

The unit also includes built-in Navteq Live Traffic service that is free for the life of the product.2011 DNX Series looks very promising, Fast, Easy to use, Ipod Favorite album makes life on the road much easier. You even have an option to use dual ipods at the same time. Built in 3D Navigation is the coolest thing ever with even better graphics, NOW YOU GET HD Radio for Free… and you can do Sirius with HD at the same time with the 9980HD. Pandora link is built in and is a pleasure to use. You can also now get an OBD2 Adapter that work via Bluetooth and you gauge info will come up on your radio. You can ever check engine codes.

Also now shipping is the double-DIN DNX6980 ($1,200), which comes with built-in Garmin navigation and Parrot Bluetooth. Features include a 6.1-inch WVGA LCD touchscreen panel with navigation/audio/video split-screen view capabilities. This provides the user with complete control over multiple A/V sources, including DVD, MP3/WMA CD, iPod, iPhone, Pandora Internet Radio link, external mass storage devices, satellite radio and HD Radio, the company said, noting that optional iPod, HD Radio, or satellite radio accessories and Internet access may be required.

Both come with two-year warranties and are available only through authorized Kenwood eXcelon retailers.Kenwood started shipping their new DNX9980HD in-dash navigation receiver this week. This is the company’s first model to offer both HD Radio and Pandora Internet Radio link.

For the Pandora Link to work, users will need an iPhone with the Pandora app on it; all the same controls from the app interface will be mimicked onscreen. Album artwork and various visuals get displayed on the 6.95-inch touchscreen as well as the main function: navigation.

The navigation is powered by Garmin and includes realistic looking 3D buildings and landmarks for maps around metropolitan areas. Also, with an optional module, the DNX9980HD will be able to retrieve vehicle data such as fuel consumption, engine temperature and exhaust emissions.

The fully-featured unit also includes built-in Navteq Live Traffic for free and voice recognition for hands-free operation of the navigation system. With all the standard features, it’s going to give many in-car infotainment systems a run for their money — as it should for $2000. But, while the Pandora Link is impressive, I’ve been able to do this with only an Aux jack for a while.

Kenwood’s new flagship double-DIN multimedia / navigation receiver is the DNX9980HD , which is Kenwood’s first multimedia model to incorporate HD Radio and the Pandora internet radio link as built-in features. Along with better sound quality and additional HD Radio-specific programming, the user can enjoy full-color album artwork and other visuals appearing on the touch screen display. New for 2011 is the addition of Pandora internet radio control capability when used with a Pandora-enabled iPhone (Internet access required). All seek, search and “thumbs up/down” functions are replicated on the faceplate of the DNX9980HD, and the 6.95” touch screen display presents full-color album art, song title, album and artist.

Advanced 3-D navigation technology by Garmin is included, offering three-dimensional buildings and landmarks with many images being photo-realistic. Lane Assist with Junction View are two features that reduce highway interchange confusion and improve driving safety. ecoRoute provides the most fuel efficient travel routes, and the optional ecoRoute HD even allows the user to view vehicle diagnostics such as fuel consumption, engine temperature and exhaust emissions (ecoRoute HD requires the optional KNA-EC100 external ODBII interface module). The DNX9980HD also includes built-in NAVTEQ Live Traffic service that is free for the life of the product.

Kenwood’s voice control feature allows the user to fully operate the navigation system and utilize features such as entering addresses or phone numbers, choosing menu options and select points of interest. The voice control system will also operate the audio and video systems, allowing the user to change between multiple sources, access entries in a cellular phonebook, make phone calls, seek out music and video files and access station presets. Twin iPod control allows for the connection and operation of two iPod, iPod Touch or iPhone devices.

The DNX9980HD has an advanced Digital Aria 3-D animated graphic user interface (GUI) with selectable skins and movable, drag-and-drop icons for complete customization. A high-resolution WVGA 6.95” touch screen with Dynamic Brightness Control provides the best looking DVD video, iPod video and USB video. While in the navigation mode, the DNX9980HD can display mapping information as well as audio/video controls on a split screen and will even allow continued monitoring of the navigation screen in split screen view while making or taking hands-free phone calls. The latest Parrot Bluetooth module is built into the DNX9980HD and is capable of A2DP stereo audio streaming from a similarly-equipped portable digital media player or Smartphone.

The double-DIN DNX6980 ($1,200.00 suggested retail price) is a value-added combination of cutting edge technologies, intuitive user interface and great Kenwood eXcelon quality. With the Garmin navigation and Parrot Stereo Bluetooth built right into the unit, the DNX6980 offers the latest in technologies at an attractive price. A compact front-panel knob is included to easily control volume. An upgraded 6.1” WVGA LCD touch screen panel with navigation/audio/video split screen view capabilities give the user complete control over multiple audio and video sources, including DVD, MP3/WMA compact disc, iPod, iPhone, Pandora internet radio link, external mass storage devices, satellite radio and HD Radio (optional iPod, HD Radio or satellite radio accessories and Internet access may be required). The user can customize the GUI and hard-key illumination colors of the DNX6980 to match the unit’s faceplate lighting to the interior lighting of many vehicles, while the background and startup screen graphics can be changed to show personal photos or the brand logo of the vehicle.

The DNX9980HD and DNX6980 come with two-year warranties and are available only through authorized Kenwood eXcelon retailers.Kenwood is launching its first nine automotive head units with Pandora Internet radio control, offering its first head unit with two iPhone/iPod USB ports, and adding HD Radio to an in-dash multimedia/ navigation unit for the first time.At booth 1801, Kenwood is displaying Pandora in all five new in-dash multimedia/ nav systems, in two upper end CD receivers, and in its two mech-less digital media receivers, which lack CD but connect to alternate sources such as iPods and USB drives.

Navigation: The company’s five new A/V-nav products, priced from a suggested $1,150 to $2,000, feature Pandora Internet Radio link and built-in Navteq live traffic free for the lifetime of the product. They also feature a split-screen touchscreen to let users control sources while a map remains on screen.All five feature upgraded Garmin navigation software exclusive to Kenwood in the aftermarket, and all are satellite- ready and HD-ready (except for the top-end $2,000 DNX9980HD with built-in HD Radio). The top-end $2,000 model, part of the step-up Excelon series, adds voice control and twin iPod/USB ports.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Roqbot new music platform app for iPod,iPhone or Android - virtual satellite radio digital jukebox

Roqbot is a new social music platform for businesses. We offer a virtual jukebox solution that runs on any internet connected device connected to the sound system. Business owners customize their catalog of music from our 5 million songs. Customers in the venue utilize our smartphone applications do browse the catalog, request music, and vote on the queue. Roqbot is a fully licensed music solution that provides a powerful engagement tool for any type of business. We are officially launching at South by Southwest 2011. Bars, restaurants, and other venues that pay to play music while you enjoy yourself on their premises have a new tool - Roqbot.

Roqbot, which beat over 400 other music apps to win the SXSW Accelerator contest at SXSW last week, pipes music into venues — just like a jukebox, satellite radio, Muzak, or an iPod, but with a few twists. For starters, it plays through “any internet-enabled device” and covers licensing fees so that venues don’t have to worry about getting busted for playing music in a public place without a license.

Co-founder Garrett Dodge says Roqbot isn’t actually competing with jukeboxes, but with iPods. Playing an iPod at a cafe or a bar has its disadvantages, namely that the staff gets tired of listening to the same music day in and day out and that customer requests are never heard. There is also the legal issue of music licensing fees when playing personal music in a public setting.

The Roqbot iPhone app (for iPhone or Android) also lets patrons buy songs jukebox-style, rating them to change the play order or checking the profiles of the people who chose the songs. If they choose to purchase a given song from iTunes, the venue gets a cut of that revenue.

Rather than the dimes, quarters, and now dollars and credit cards gobbled by traditional and digital jukeboxes, Roqbot accepts credits that can be purchased with a credit card or earned when the user performs certain actions, such as confirming their email address, rating songs on a venue’s playlist, adding a profile image, or allowing the app to post their plays to Facebook or Twitter. The credits cost a different amount depending on volume; two credits costs a buck — enough for two songs at the end of the queue or one song at the top — while 25 credits cost $10.

In addition, users can vote on each other’s picks, adding a social dimension to the app, somewhat along the lines of Jelli’s crowdsourced FM radio programming. The system rewards highly-rated DJs with “a badge system based on picking good music that other people in the bar like” and generally increasing their prominence within the system, according to Dodge. (Roqbot, currently at version 0.4, is still a work in progress and the founders are currently seeking funding for further development.)

To make it easier to find personally-compatible music within the service, users can sync their profile, iTunes library, or Facebook favorite bands into the app. Meanwhile, Roqbot-enabled venues can let customers choose between all five million songs available in Roqbot’s catalog — or restrict them to a subset to fit the style of the venue. The system can import the venue’s existing playlists and provide recommendations based on artists that already define a particular venue’s sound.

All of this often has the unintended effect of bringing patrons within a bar closer together, according to Patel, in a reversal of the usual effect of digital music.Roqbot has many clear advantages over the traditional jukebox or a venue-controlled iPod, but it also offers much easier music discovery than internet-connected jukeboxes such as the Ecast jukebox — the first internet-connected jukebox ever installed, because it lets people see what’s playing from the comfort of their barstool, restaurant table, or bowling lane.

Another side effect of this system: It knows with perfect accuracy what it has played, and so can pay artists and their representatives accurately rather than relying on random sampling or other less-reliable methods. As more businesses switch to Roqbot or something like it, the so-called “long tail” artists loved by hundreds or thousands rather than millions of fans should stand a better chance of receiving part of the royalty payments paid by restaurants, bars, and other establishments.

With Roqbot you can check in at a participating venue as well as publish your checkins and music picks to Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook. You can select a song to play using Roqbot credits that you can buy with Amazon, Paypal or your Credit Card through your phone. The app offers you a comprehensive list of popular music to choose from, including some that will please the cranky indie music snob you’ve dragged along. If you’re having trouble deciding what to play you can pick from curated lists like “Highest Rated of all time,” “Most Played of All Time” and yes “Top 80s.”

Participating venues have their own dashboards within the app and aspiring DJs can navigate through “Now Playing” “Next Up” “DJs” and “Specials” homescreens. On the “Next Up” screen, a Digg-like interface allows you to thumb up and thumb down songs, increasing or decreasing people’s DJ ratings with each vote (and it gets heated). Likewise people can vote your picks up or down, which affects your own DJ rating as well as your position in line. For extra Roqbot credits you can set your musical picks to “Priority Pick” which moves them up in the queue.

Roqbot also gives away all the equipment for free to venues, including the entire catalogue of five million fully-licensed songs (one of the co-founders has a background in IP law and one of their advisors used to be the CEO of Sony Music).The Roqbot beta can be downloaded from the iPhone, but can only be used at Bar Basic in San Francisco which I highly suggest if you’re in the area. Dodge plans on launching the alpha for both the Android and iPhone platform in March, offering it for free to people planning parties at SXSW. Roqbot is currently bootstrapped.

Roqbot is gaining momentum in the world! They are one of eight Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator finalists in the music related category. As a finalist, Roqbot will showcase their product March 14th and 15th after officially launching at SXSW. Roqbot allows you to request songs at bars, cafes, and other businesses through your mobile device. Businesses can also access Roqbot’s 5 million song library to play as background music.

The startup is pioneering the use of social music in businesses by integrating input from customers and staff. Listeners are able to vote for upcoming songs and rate pre-made playlists. The app is available for iPhone, Android, the mobile web, and as an application for laptops. While at SXSW, Roqbot will be available for parties and in area bars.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Satellite radio in the new iPhone5

Apple plans to change the game by displaying all the available radio stations nearby on an interactive map, with names and signal strengths displayed for each station. Apple quietly submitted a patent application that altered the radio experience for its users and introduced three new elements to the iPhone: FM, AM, and Satellite Radio – all built in.

The radio patents are an indication that the iPhone 5 might offer a unique radio station mapping function which will let users find and select a station with the closest or strongest signal. The folks at T3 believe that Apple might integrate an FM radio receiver added to the top right corner of the device.If you’re traveling from town to town, this might be a great feature. Although from a functional standpoint it may be “cooler” than a scan feature, it’s hard to believe it is better. Meanwhile, if you – like most folks – do your radio listening in your own ‘hood, then this feature is pretty worthless. Still, kudos to Apple for more out-of-the-box (if surprisingly non-funtional) thinking.

The dream will have been realized and radio (and satellite radio) will once again be portable on one of America’s most popular mobile devices – the style-setter for all the rest.That portability will be provided at the level of consistency folks expect from FM and AM signals without the dropouts that may characterize streaming.You’ll still need to stream, you just won’t need to stream so that an iPhone owner around the corner from the station’s broadcast tower can get your station on their iPhone. Not only that, but there will remain an opportunity to stream things that are different from what’s on your air to properly leverage the power of your brand.

You’ll still need mobile apps, you just won’t need mobile apps that do nothing more than repackage your station in a stream (do you understand now why Apple has been rejecting these single-function radio apps?). You’ll have an opportunity to solve new consumer problems with your apps and extend your brand experience in new ways.Standard FM and AM are going into the new iPhone – not HD radio.Satellite radio is getting equal shelf-space to terrestrial on the new iPhones.

After all, this provides more distribution for FM and AM radio, but distribution has never been radio’s problem (which is why almost everybody listens to radio). Could it add new quarter-hours to your station’s audience? Sure, but primarily at the expense of somebody else’s quarter-hours. In other words, it does little to enlarge radio’s audience or revenue pie. Will folks turn off Pandora and their streaming radio apps for the new built-in radio app? Maybe. But Pandora has succeeded on iPhones not because FM or AM isn’t there – it has succeeded because it’s different from FM or AM, and that will not be changing.

Broadcasters will look at the presence of radio on iPhones as a future-oriented victory. But the race radio is competing in includes many more players besides other radio stations. And product innovation is key to win that race. Victory will not come from more distribution or from pretty geographic maps of your tower or from new platforms which place FM and AM beside satellite radio.On the iPhone, your competitor is not the station next door, it’s everything else competing for time and attention and advertising dollars on the iPhone. Imagine a radio dial that expands exponentially, and you begin to get the idea.

A new patent application from Apple was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office which covers Apple's intentions of finally bringing radio to the iPhone via AM, FM and Satellite signals. Apple being Apple, we could always expect something different, and in this case they're thinking of introducing us to a unique radio station mapping function that acts as an alternative to a straight scrolling list of radio stations. This could actually be very handy when you're on the road as opposed to being at home where a list is just fine. 

On the road, instead of using your in-vehicle radio roaming feature to find new stations, the proposed iPhone radio station mapping app would simply layout the stations visually for you to choose from - all at one time. It's a quick and easier solution. Apple's patent also hints of releasing a radio peripheral card for MacBooks.In opening cover graphic you could see a partial of patentwhich covers satellite radio. Apple states that the iPhone's radio will work with XM or Sirius satellite radio stations – beyond the basics of AM and FM.

In Apple's noted below, we see that an FM radio receiver (104) is associated with a future version of the iPhone. The iPhone's smart radio program is capable of presenting you with an FM radio list or a unique map with icons of the primary FM stations (e.g., 204a, 204b, and 204c, collectively referenced as 204) in the neighborhood.The map (202) may include the station call letters and the genre of the program that is currently being played at each station. The map is also able to show the broadcast signal strength (e.g., 210a, 210b, and 210c) of radio stations. The map is interactive, so you'll be able to tap on the icons representing the radio station in order to tune into the stations.

In Apple shown above we see an illustrated example of an iPhone tuned into the classical music broadcast from a radio station shown as KQXO. As you could see in the illustration, you'll be able to preset at least your top five radio stations on your touch screen.According to Apple's patent, the FM radio receiver 104 could "be a device that is attached to a notebook computer through a wired or wireless interface" but could also be "a peripheral card that is configured to be inserted into a peripheral card slot of a notebook computer."

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

ICC Cricket World Cup on SiriusXM radio

Sirius XM Radio announced that it will broadcast the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, offering both Sirius and XM subscribers play-by-play coverage of men’s matches from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from the group games through to the World Cup Final on April 2.

For the second year, match broadcasts, provided by Cricket Radio, will air on Sirius channel 113 and XM channel 244. Visit for match times and listings.

The ICC Cricket World Cup, the 50-over world event for cricket held every four years, will take place at venues in India, Sri Lanka and, for the first time, Bangladesh. Fourteen national teams from around the globe will compete in two groups with the group stage matches running from February 19 - March 20.

The eight teams that emerge from the group stage will compete in the “Super Eights” from March 23 - 26. The top four teams from the Super Eights will compete in the semi-finals on March 29 and 30 and the 2011 Cricket World Cup champion will be crowned after a one-match final on Saturday, April 2.

England, the reigning 2010 World Cup champion, returns to defend their title. They will be challenged in this year’s competition by Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and Zimbabwe.

Sirius XM offers an extensive lineup of international sports programming. In addition to the Cricket World Cup, listeners can also hear Formula One racing, world class soccer from the English Premier League, and World Cup skiing events from around the globe.

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

General Motors built the world’s first “vehicle-sized electronically modulated spherical near-field antenna testing system,to Improve Sirius XM Satellite Radio Reception

General Motors built the world’s first “vehicle-sized electronically modulated spherical near-field antenna testing system,” or ATS, in partnership with transmission tech giant SATIMO SA (Societe d’Applications Technologiques de l’Imagerie Micro-Onde SA).

It looks like Sirius XM Satellite Radio reception is getting an upgrade thanks to “wireless signal super-receivers” developed by General Motors utilizing their newly completed and now operational $750,000 antenna testing facility.

There are only two other vehicle antenna validation systems like this anywhere in the world, and ours was the first. The ATS system lets us test the antenna systems on the GMC Yukon Denali in virtually every possible real-world condition. What would take other automakers days of testing can be done in minutes with this system.

According to General Motors, the gigantic, first-of-its-kind signal-testing facility was created to “optimize satellite antenna design and placement” and to “keep data, cellular and other signals active in areas where wireless signal strength is limited.”

The massive ATS, resembling half of the St. Louis Gateway Arch, transmits signals from 103 discrete probes to a vehicle on a rotating platform below. GM’s 2011 Yukon Denali will be one of the first vehicles to benefit from this new technology.

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Insignia NS-HD01 HD Radio - Only FM HD radio or satellite radio

HD Radio sounds better than satellite, Internet, or analog AM and FM radio. Have you heard it yet? Chances are a few of your local AM or FM stations broadcast HD Radio signals, but they probably don't mention that fact on the air. To find out if your local stations are HD, check with iBiquity Digital, the company that licenses the technology. HD Radio--unlike digital satellite radio--has no subscription fee.

The Insignia NS-HD01 ($50) portable HD Radio's sound quality is a big step up from most mini radios, and it's the least expensive way to listen to HD Radio. Once it's locked onto an HD Radio signal, background hiss and noise vanish.

I listened to the NS-HD01 with a bunch of sets of headphones, including some of the best high-end custom in-ear models from JH Audio, Ultimate Ears, and Westone. Once the NS-HD01 is locked onto one of the better-sounding HD Radio stations, like WBGO or WNYC, the sound quality was a big step up from FM. Stereo separation and overall clarity were good enough to satisfy my audiophile tastes.

When I was on the move through New York City streets the NS-HD01 repeatedly lost the digital signal and switched back and forth between analog and digital sound. So it's clear that HD Radio technology doesn't improve reception. The NS-HD01's analog sound quality is still decent, but the analog and digital switch-overs might be a deal breaker for some buyers. The NS-HD01 is FM-only; it doesn't receive AM or AM HD Radio signals.

The radio is tiny, just 3.07x2.06x0.63 inches, but not so small that it's difficult to use. The front face is dominated by an easy-to-read 1.5-inch color LCD screen that's surrounded by nine control buttons. I found the radio easy to use and it was easy to toggle up or down through my presets. A rocker switch on the right side controls volume and mute.

The NS-HD01 is powered by a (not user-replaceable) rechargeable lithium ion battery. The recharging port is a standard Mini-USB connection, so you can charge the battery on your computer. The battery is rated for 10 hours of playback, and the screen auto-dims to save energy. Accessories include a Velcro armband, earbud headphones, and a USB cable.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Popular Pandora in your car?

Pioneer makes a wide array of consumer electronics products, but you wouldn’t know it from its CES press conference today. The company focused exclusively on its car stereo and accessories, putting its car division’s director of marketing, Ted Cardenas, on the stand to make some minor announcements including additional social networking support, the launch of a new iPhone dock, and its own app platform.

In the span of a few years, has gone from an unwieldy, unprofitable start-up to one of the most beloved sites of the internet and on mobile devices. CES featured so many devices that can stream music from Pandora, it was like the music service took over the show. The automotive world got a lot of attention for how Pandora plans to integrate the service, scaring the crud out of terrestrial and satellite radio folks, we imagine. Here are a few ways Pandora will be coming to your car:

Mini announced a partnership that will allow drivers to stream Pandora in all of its 2011 model year vehicles. The third-party app will not cost anything extra, and drivers will be able to control it through Mini’s existing system, called Mini Connected.

Ford’s Sync system will get Pandora, with the added bonus that drivers will be able to control their music through voice commands.
Automotive supplier Visteon revealed a concept system that can stream Pandora through a standard 4G connection. Users will even be able to give songs a thumbs up or thumbs down like on the computer (though perhaps this duty should be left to the passenger).
Sony became the first company to offer head units that can control Pandora from Android and BlackBerry phones. The company says Pandora will come embedded in “multiple” units this year, and it uses Bluetooth to stream the music. The company is quick to point out that combined Android and Blackberry users outnumber those who own iPhones.

Alpine introduced the iDA-X305S stereo, which uses a 3G connection. However, this model requires an iPhone 3G or 3GS to work, leaving out Android and BlackBerry users — not to mention the 11 of us left in America without a smartphone.
A similar unit from Pioneer, the AVIC-X920BT, will also require an iPhone to stream the internet radio station. Some will see these connection issues as a limitation, but some of us still remember a time when there was no music on the internet, let alone having the internet in cars.
Cardenas announced that nine Pioneer car stereo models will now support Pandora Internet radio, up from two last year and the electronics manufacturer is partnering with Aha Radio to add Twitter, Facebook, and podcast support to a couple of its high-end audio dashboards. Aha Radio, originally an iPhone app, reads tweets and Facebook messages out loud via a robotic-sounding voice and has about 100 podcast series available for download. It also features some light location searching, will read local Yelp reviews, and has traffic reports.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

OCar turns your iPhone to your car’s head unit

There are plenty of solution that will allow you to mount your iPhone to your car, OxygenAudio takes the idea to another level by creating the “oCar” – an amplified RDS car radio head unit specially made for the iPhone. It literally turns your iPhone to your car’s head unit, you can control all the your cars stereo function using the phones touch screen, listen to the music stored on your iPhone, and access your favorite app (pandora, maps, etc.) while the iPhone is being charged and docked to the head unit. The rotating mount holds your iPhone in landscape or portrait mode, it also pivots for that perfect viewing angle.

It appears that the oCar is basically a 4x55W, RDS tuner head unit with a built-in dock and hands free kit, it takes all your iPhone’s functions then seamlessly fuse it with your car, so it’s just a radio without an iPhone docked in it. Looks nice, however, it’s not clear if you would be able to control music using your cars steering wheel mounted playback controls. Lastly, a built-in airplay support could be nice, that way passengers can take over and stream music or video from their iOS device while you stay focused on driving.The unit is also compatible with iPhone 3G, 3GS and iPhone 4.

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HD Radio's big advantage over satellite

The huge Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is about all things digital, and increasingly applications best enjoyed from an armchair (including TV and Web access) have gone mobile with auto-based versions. One of the new frontiers is high-end car audio — not from a CD but from the radio.
There are cars everywhere at CES, from Aston-Martins to classic Camaros. The electric vehicle is being acknowledged at CES with a special Electric Vehicle TechZone from Audi, and EVs on display from Ford and General Motors.
One of the big sellers this year is likely to be aftermarket stereos that incorporate navigation and mimic the original equipment in new cars, but for half the price. Increasingly, these devices also incorporate features like satellite radio and a service I’m fascinated by, HD Radio.
According to Stephen Baldacci, a spokesman for HD Radio owner Ibiquity Digital (owned by a consortium of big-league radio owners such as Clear Channel), some 2,000 AM and FM radio stations now broadcast HD radio signals, which are transmitted digitally on frequencies between regular broadcast radio. Baldacci claims these local broadcasts reach 95 percent of all radio listeners in the U.S., but the rate of new stations going HD has slowed, largely because of cost issues in a radio recession.
At the CES show, Ashruf El-Dinary, a vice president of commercial applications at Ibiquity, sat with me in a HD-equipped Volkswagen. He said it costs stations $60,000 to $200,000 to go HD, depending on whether they need a new transmitter and other enhancements. Ibiquity has sold three million HD radios so far, and 17 auto brands now offer HD, and 37 models include it as standard equipment.
HD Radio sounds really good. Ibiquity’s claim is that FM sounds like CD, and AM like FM. On the VW, I listened to a country station playing Kenny Chesney and Joe Nichols, and the bass was really deep. Added features include a visual display of the artist playing with a photo, and tagging, which allows you to push a button and retain information on a song in an iPod playlist. Of course, you have to buy the songs for 99 cents each.
HD is a bit complicated for the novice. Tune into your standard station on an HD radio and you’ll hear it with enhanced sound and graphics. But the same station may also have an HD2 or HD3 channel with unique programming. As El-Dinary demonstrated, a station playing the Jack format on their main channel might offer an HD2 with smooth jazz and an HD3 with talk. NPR’s WAMU offers bluegrass on its HD2.
“HD is always local, and it’s always free,” said Baldacci. That last point is important when you compare HD to satellite radio. Consumers who are getting tired of paying for their SiriusXM subscription might want to investigate what they can get over the air, free. There are reportedly 1,000 channels of unique HD2 and HD3 programming, though it’s all local — only available within the range of the broadcast signal.
As I said, cars and audio are merging as digital products, and your next automobile purchase may be at a big-box store, with HD Radio and a built-in Web browser as part of the deal.

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Canadian Satellite loss for $2.2 million

Canadian Satellite said its average monthly subscription revenue per subscriber, or ARPU, increased to $11.40 from $11.26, marking the second consecutive quarter of ARPU growth, while the number of self-paying subscribers increased by 12.2 per cent to 439,300 from 391,600.

 Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. parent company of XM Canada, said Wednesday its adjusted operating loss increased in the first quarter despite higher revenues.
The company put its adjusted operating loss for the three months ended Nov. 30 at $2.2 million, up from $1.1 million in the same quarter last year. Per share figures were not given.Revenue rose 12.6 per cent to $15.4 million from $13.7 million in the prior-year period.
“Our high-quality programming and content are the foundation of our ability to attract and retain subscribers," XM Canada president and CEO Michael Moskowitz said in a news release.
"Despite challenges in the economy, revenue growth continues to be robust, driven by an increase in both ARPU and self-paying subscribers. The auto sector recovery and the expansion of our content delivery across multiple platforms – most notably in the online and mobile space – have also contributed to our solid results.”
Stock in the company, which reported after markets closed, was down five cents at $3.50 Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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