PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
News

Radio player a little too late

Eric Benderoff
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

I've been testing a type of gadget I've wanted for some time - a pocket-size, iPod-like radio player that delivers the variety of programming available from satellite radio.

There's only one problem: It's two years too late.

If Pioneer's XMp3 player had launched in 2006, I would have given it a hearty endorsement. Today? It's a hard sell because the market has changed significantly.

Sure, iPods, Zunes and a bevy of other MP3 players would have been competing products then, but the difference today is that iPhones and BlackBerries can play digital music files and stream audio for free.

That's what the XMp3 does - for $279 plus $13 a month (or $17 a month if you want to hear Howard Stern).

Still, I like this flexible and robust product quite a bit. But I don't think it will give Sirius XM Radio the new subscribers it covets. Drawing paying customers to a device in an era where free choices are abundant is a lot to ask.

But, boy, the XMp3, introduced last month, is nice.

It's smaller than a standard iPod and nearly as light as an iPod Nano. It fits comfortably into a shirt pocket and navigation is intuitive. On top sits a squat and unobtrusive antenna to receive a satellite signal. But if you're inside and not close to a window, receiving a signal is difficult.

To compensate, this player can store 100 hours of recorded content from XM. Five channels can be recorded simultaneously and you can schedule recordings of your favorite shows.

Best of all, individual song titles and artists are displayed separately.

Also, you can add digital music files to the built-in MP3 player. This Windows-only function worked well in my tests, as I dragged songs onto the XMp3 using my computer's media software.

But doing so makes little sense. Why would I pay a monthly fee for satellite radio and then use it to play songs I already own?

The XM in the name stands for the XM satellite service, which provides the channel lineup for this unit. For an extra $4 a month, you can purchase a "Best of Sirius" package, which includes Stern, Martha Stewart and NFL games. Otherwise, for $13 you only get XM's offerings - including Oprah, the National Hockey League and a variety of music channels.

Sirius XM is developing a player that will integrate both services, but that's not expected until next year.

The XMp3 ships with a home dock and separate antenna to maximize reception. You can plug the device into a home stereo receiver with included RCA cables or plug it into portable speakers using the headphone jack.

It also ships with an unnecessary remote control but not car adapter, a huge oversight.

Why? Because satellite radio has one clear advantage over new smart phones that can stream music: You can drive from Maine to California and not lose the signal. You can't do that with the iPhone 3G, as you won't get a consistent wireless signal through rural America.

On the other hand, free streaming services on the iPhone offer a wealth of content that Sirius XM doesn't offer paying customers. For instance, there is only one channel for the BBC world service on the XMp3.

But if you have downloaded the Flycast application for your iPhone, you have a choice of about 20 BBC feeds, including the world service, and other news programs. Two years ago, that content wasn't available on a portable gadget. But today, no matter how elegant a product may be, it's hard to justify paying for programming that is increasingly available for free.

___

(Eric Benderoff writes about technology for the Chicago Tribune.)

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.