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HD Radio smartphone prototype lands with a thud

Remember that HD Radio enabled smartphone set to debut at the National Association of Broadcasters show last week? There was hoopla–mostly in the industry–leading up to the show. And, then, radio silence.

I looked for news reports all last week and didn’t find a thing. Only a NAB email newsletter sent this week brought any info, followed by an April 17 Radio World article that somehow Google failed to deliver to me until the 25th.

Turns out, the smartphone prototype did actually get revealed to what the NAB calls “a jam-packed press conference.” The phone itself runs the popular Android mobile OS, with an HD Radio app that pairs with an HD Radio chip developed by Intel. The app brings in song, album and artist information for what’s playing using the TagStation and “Artist Experience” systems. In addition the app features “an enhanced HD Radio ad experience,” to deliver what every smartphone user wants more of: interactive ads and coupons.

HD Radio app's song display and sharing features

Of course, the real trick will be getting any wireless carriers to get on board. Many Android phones already have analog FM radios built-in. Given the tepid public response to HD Radio I have hard time seeing a groundswell of demand for adding HD to the mix. The so-called enhancements that the HD Radio app offers are pretty mundane compared to Pandora or Spotify which have been offering artist data and interactive ads since they first hit an app store. I especially don’t see Apple adopting HD Radio, which leaves out 32% of US smartphone owners from the get-go.

Nevertheless, this won’t stop the NAB and iBiquity from trying to get their HD foot in the door. The NAB recently opened RadioRocksMyPhone.com to help build the case. The front page of the site currently declares that “3 out of 4 Americans not only want radio in their smartphones, they’d pay for it!” Interestingly, there’s no mention of HD Radio anywhere on the site, perhaps indicating that the NAB knows it’s a likely dead end.

3 out of 4 Americans want radio in their smartphones

As a radio lover, I fully support more smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers adding radios to their handsets. As I’ve mentioned before, I like the FM radio in my HTC EVO Android phone, and wish my iPhone also sported a radio. But also as an occasional HD Radio listener, I don’t buy that there’s much value to be added including the digital service. Like the HD Radio technology itself, the smartphone initiative is a case of too little, too late.



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5 Responses to HD Radio smartphone prototype lands with a thud

  1. Greg April 26, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    “Study: Consumers want HD Radio in mobile devices”

    “iBiquity Digital unveiled the results of a recent comScore study that validates consumer demand and willingness to pay a premium for HD Radio Technology as a handset feature. 68% of consumers surveyed are interested or extremely interested in mobile phones that include HD Radio Technology. 75% of those who own a mobile phone would listen to HD Radio broadcasts via their mobile phone. $42 is the value premium consumers attribute to HD Radio Technology in mobile phones.”

    http://rbr.com/study-consumers-want-hd-radio-in-mobile-devices/

    “Is The FM Chip All About Radio Saving Money?”

    “Carpenter says if broadcasters can get the chip into the phone, they wouldn’t have to pay streaming fees because the chip delivers the over-the-air product, therefore eliminating the streaming cost. He was also less than impressed with the rollout last week of the new HD chip by iBiquity and Intel. I chuckled when I saw that. I don’t know a soul who has HD. That was just an attempt to jump start the FM chip business which has not taken off. Carpenter also says those phones that already have the chips are not really being activated all that much.”

    http://www.radioink.com/Article.asp?id=2443586

    It looks like the HD proponents are referring to that comScore study a few years ago, but the study never showed up in comScore’s database. Three out of four consumers don’t even have an idea that HD Radio exists.

    Today, Radio Ink ran the second story. I believe the sole purpose of getting analog chipsets into cell phones is just a ruse to get HD Radio mandated into cell phones. The NRSC and NAB Board Members are investors in iBiquity.

  2. Michael Reid April 27, 2012 at 4:18 am #

    I’m the developer of “Spirit FM Radio”, the only commercial FM Radio app for Android and the only one supporting multiple chips, phones, FM APIs and “ROMs”.

    I regularly speak with people who are disappointed to find that the FM/combination chips already in their phones are “crippled” with no connections for antenna and audio.

    Some are disappointed they didn’t consider free, data plan conserving, over the air FM radio capability when buying their phone.

    And yet many would not give up their favourite phone for an FM capable model. They just hope that I or someone can find a hack or magic trick to make it work.

    I’m happy to discuss anything smartphone and OTA radio related on my XDA thread at http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=25377121

  3. Phill K April 28, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    It’s kinda a technical dead end they created for themselves. Certainly compared to Digital Radio Mondiale that has technical specs everywhere that if I wanted to implement a version, I in fact could. I even can see how old radio sets might could be retrofitted. You don’t even pay a licensing fee for the first few copies. Not so with HD Radio – proprietary through and through I’m not going to even bother looking for a data sheet. Oh well, I think I’m gonna renew my xm radio satellite subscription. Lot’s of cool programming on there, and it’s everywhere.

  4. Kili December 13, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    I very much would like HD radio on my phone. I use Pandora now, and like it, but a few years back the jazz stations in my area largely went to HD and genres I loathe took over their FM slots. I’d much rather get back to them. If the public at large isn’t aware HD exists, it’s because the marketing people are falling down on the job. They could have offered up holiday promotions for hardware — done contests to win prizes and all the other hoopla that companies do when trying to introduce new things to the public — I’ve seen nothing of that nature from HD radio. Simply putting up a webpage no one knows to go to is insufficient.

  5. B Kind June 24, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    That is soooo funny… Apple will never add hdradio to phones, considering they forced itags on everyone…they get money selling the damn songs, people….. Pure Apple BS, ironic

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