Satellite Radio Blog

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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