High speed in-car connectivity could be a threat, but also an opportunity, for radio

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 11:45am

This week we reported GM will equip several 2014 automobiles with 4G mobile connectivity, enabling data speeds of up to ten times that of 3G connections (see RAIN here). American Public Media's "Marketplace Tech" covered it too, and focused on the implications for traditional AM/FM radio. Its headline: "GM's Internet cars: The end of FM radio?"

Show host David Brancaccio spoke with CNet executive editor Molly Wood, wondering if the new tech would be a "big opportunity, or a big pain-in-the-neck, for regular FM and AM radio stations that also cherish the in-car audience."

"Once this becomes readily available and the price for it is built into the price of the car," Wood said, "I think radio's got a pretty big problem."

Her prediction did come with some caveats. The first is cost. 4G is currently pretty pricey. Next, 4G coverage can still be spotty.

As Brancaccio suggested, however, there's also opportunity here for terrestrial radio. "Some existing radio stations are very strong brands, and if they get ahead of this... it might mean new listeners, not just in their traditional listening area, but across the country," he said.

Wood concurred: "And that is definitely the opportunity. If the content is there, and people want it, I think that's absolutely a huge opportunity. And I do think that there will always be a place for local."

Listen to the full inteview from APM's Marketplace Tech here.

GM to equip 2014 cars with 4G mobile

Monday, February 25, 2013 - 12:00pm

General Motors, a pioneer in car-connectivity with its OnStar system, has fallen behind other automakers in the category (like Ford and its Sync system).

Now GM hopes to leapfrog other car makers by wiring 2014 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Opel, and Vauxhall brands in the U.S. and Canada with 4G mobile broadband technology.

This will not only give drivers and passengers connection at ten times the speed of current offerings, but makes the car itself a "virtual smartphone" (most competitors' systems, as well as GM's current MyLink system, pictured, require an actual smartphone be connected to the dash).  The Wall Street Journal reports GM will use AT&T as its 4G provider.

We can't wait to hear more about this and other matters related to in-dash delivery of Internet radio at RAIN Summit West, April 7 in Las Vegas. We'll feature a panel called "Dashboard Discussions" to tackle these issues. Get more info on RAIN Summit West here.

Read more from The Journal here.

GigaOM: Automakers' bring-your-own-connection strategy may be more beneficial to consumers

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 11:40am

In-car stereoThe current in-car Internet radio landscape is dominated by dashboard systems that let users control services like Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn...provided there's a smartphone connected.

Lately, Verizon has reportedly pushed aggressively for a different future, one where cars connect directly to the web via 4G LTE. GigaOM reports Verizon Wireless' parent company recently purchased a machine-to-machine telematics company, while Verizon itself has formed a 4G Venture Forum for Connected Cars.

BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Kia have joined the forum, but absent are automakers from Detroit. GigaOM writes their absence "might be attributable to the fact that U.S. automakers’ visions for the connected car aren’t entirely aligned with Verizon’s."

That is, they would prefer the current bring-your-own-connection set-up.

"The logic is sound," comments GigaOM (here). "Consumer vehicles have long replacement cycles. Meanwhile consumers trade in their smartphones for more-sophisticated models every 18 months. Any radio, processor or platform technology an automaker embeds in a car could become obsolete within a few years."

But might requiring a separate device end up being a roadblock to in-car web radio adoption? Perhaps not. Nielsen recently found that more than half of mobile users in the U.S. now own a smartphone (RAIN coverage here). Meanwhile, Forrester Research has predicted U.S. consumers will own 257 million smartphones by 2016 (more here). 

As Auto Magazine commented last year (here), "Millions of drivers already pay for powerful mobile devices and data plans, and most new cars, even those as inexpensive as the Kia Forte, are set up to connect with them via Bluetooth and USB inputs."

But it will be up to automakers to make the integration between their dashboards and the increasingly diverse world of smartphones as seamless and painless as possible.

Studies show Apple mobile device owners using far more data than others

Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 12:10pm

Among the top 10% of mobile data users, 80% of them are sucking up that bandwidth with an Apple iPhone, says a new report. Focusing on smartphone owners in the 70th percentile and above when it comes to data usage, it's more than three times as likely they own an iPhone than the next most "data-hungry" group of users, Android-on-HTC device owners.

Meanwhile, according to online ad network Chitika, Apple's share of all U.S. smartphone traffic is now 72%; its share of tablet traffic is a staggering 95%.

So, why is it Apple mobile users seem to be using so much more data? Not only are there far more Android devices out there than iPhones, many Android devices are now 4G-enabled (which would intuitively result in more data usage), while Apple's only 4G device is its new iPad in the U.S. (This study, by the way, was done by research firm Analysys Mason, which tracked mobile usage of smartphone users in the U.s. and several European countries.)

TheNextWeb writes, "it’s quite surprising that very heavy data users are sporting an iPhone, suggesting the rich media experience Apple has presented to users is proving to be a hit."

Analysys Mason's press release for its study, "Consumer smartphone usage: key findings from an on-device tracker," is here. TheNextWeb's coverage of the study is here. AllThingsDigital's coverage of the Chitika story is here.

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