BMW brings Stitcher Radio into the dashboard

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 1:05pm

Stitcher Radio in a BMWBMW revealed yesterday it's integrating Stitcher Radio into cars with BMW Apps or Mini Connected services.

Stitcher is a news radio and pocast service that's often referred to as Pandora for news radio. In-dash use of Stitcher requires a connected iPhone. Drivers can use BMW's dashboard system to create or remove stations and provide feedback like "More Like This" or "Listeners Also Like."

Engadget has a hands-on video here.

Rhapsody: Half of listening is mobile, in-car a major focus

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 1:05pm

Rhapsody for mobile devicesLike it is for many Internet radio services, mobile makes up half of on-demand music platform Rhapsody's listening. That's "a large percentage, considering the company’s ten-year history as a desktop music player," writes's Eliot Van Buskirk. The ratio may tip further in favor of mobile, as Rhapsody soon plans to allow Facebook users to try its mobile apps for free -- no credit card required.

Van Buskirk says a "major factor" for Rhapsody's high mobile usage is in-car listening. Rhapsody is reportedly looking to integrate its service into car dashboards. 

However, “the problem with the car right now is that it’s so fractured,” said product head Jon Maples. “We could hit all the major players, and we wouldn’t even get five percent of all cars.” Other problems to overcome include open APIs for basic functions (Play/Pause, Skip, etc.) and ways around mobile data limts, like offline playback. has more coverage here. Rhapsody's Chief Product Officer Brendan Benzing will appear at RAIN Summit West 2012 (more info here).

HTC accessory wirelessly streams web radio from smartphones to car stereos

Friday, March 2, 2012 - 11:15am

HTC's new in-car music accessoryPhone maker HTC will soon offer an accessory that allows smartphones to wirelessly stream audio to any car stereo with a 3.5mm input jack.

The device is small, almost like a USB flash drive. It connects to a car stereo through a 3.5mm jack, then to a smartphone through Bluetooth or microUSB cable. Then the user can play any audio from any app from their smartphone to their car stereo.

HTC's upcoming new Android devices will feature a revamped in-car UI for playing music (RAIN coverage here). That UI will reportedly come up automatically when the phone connects to HTC's in-car accessory.

No word yet on pricing, but Phandroid has more coverage here.

HTC incorporates web radio services into new phones, offers in-car streaming accessory

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 12:20pm

HTC's new line-up of music-focused devicesYesterday at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, major Android device maker HTC unveiled a new line of phones that integrate web radio services and a "completely new car experience." Meanwhile, Google revealed figures on the growth of the Android platform.

The new devices -- One X, One S and One Z -- run on a version of Android customized by HTC called Sense 4. That platform includes Beats Audio and wireless iTunes music syncing over Wi-Fi. HTC announced Pandora, Spotify and other third-party streaming services would be able to use Beats Audio on the new devices.

Additionally, web radio services like Pandora and TuneIn will be integrated into Sense 4's "Music Hub" which will serve as a sort of all-in-one aggregator for users' music. "This is huge," commented Boy Genius Report (here).

Sense 4's music features also integrate with HTC's "completely new car experience," which aims to make music services easy to use while driving. HTC will even offer a wireless stereo clip accessory that will stream music from a user's phone to the car dashboard. That includes local music files, more than 50,000 streaming radio stations and audio from any music app. HTC also revealed an accessory that will play a device's content on a HDMI TV screen. 

HTC may have even more streaming music plans up its sleeve. Earlier this month, GigaOM reported that the company was rumored to be working on its own streaming music service. HTC may also be working on some sort of wireless boombox. Find more from GigaOM here.

AndroidHTC's new devices will be available in the U.S. in April. You can find more coverage in CNet here, Engadget here and HTC's press release here.

Also at MWC, Google announced that 850,000 Android devices are being activated every day. That's up "a whopping 250% year-over-year," reports Boy Genius Report (here). Android's app store now has 450,000 titles -- "a mere 50,000 shy of Apple's iOS App Store."

ComScore recently found that Android has a 47.3% market share among U.S. consumers with a smartphone. Overall, 42% of U.S. mobile phone users own a smartphone (up from 27% in 2010). You can find more from Engadget here.

RAIN "test drives" variety on in-car web radio setups at the Chicago Auto Show

Friday, February 17, 2012 - 10:00am

Chicago Auto ShowNearly a third of motorists in the U.S. want streaming media in their cars, according to the Gartner consultancy. And a Deloitte survey found that 72% of car buyers age 19-31 want smartphone app compatibility, and 59% said car connectivity is the most important aspect of a car's interior. So how is the auto industry responding to such demands?

Yesterday RAIN braved the crowds at the Chicago Auto Show to find out. After stopping back at least half a dozen auto-makers, we were struck by the variety of ways drivers can now listen to nearly any web radio service through their car speakers.

Indeed, though some manufacturers offer slick touchscreens that display album art and now playing info, these systems really only make it easier to do what most new models can already do through Bluetooth, USB or audio-jack connections. Most of the basic systems even allow control of web radio streams (using play, pause, and skip buttons on the steering wheel or dashboard). 

Pandora on MyLink in a Chevy MalibuGM's MyLink system (pictured left, playing Pandora) appeared to be one of the easiest systems to use. We tested the set-up in a 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco, which featured a touchscreen filled with iPad-like icons.

It offered options for Pandora and Stitcher, though it could stream any web radio or music content via Bluetooth or USB. MyLink supports Andriod and iPhone. Its available in the 2012 Verano, LaCrosse, Regal and Enclave -- according to the representative we spoke to, MyLink will be offered standard in most of those models by the end of the year. (Note: MyLink for Buick and GMC is confusingly dubbed IntelliLink).

Audi's in-car web set-up (pictured right, playing Pandora) was the most advanced and differed from others in not needing a smartphone for some web tasks. Instead, the car connects to the web itself using T-Mobile's network. Alas, the setup -- called Audi Connect -- doesn't include streaming web radio, which still requires a Bluetooth-connected iPhone or Android. However, you can connect to the Audi's in-car Wi-Fi and not drain your monthly data plan.

Audi Connect playing Pandora from a connected iPhoneAudi offered another nice touch: even though there's no in-dash web radio "app," per se, the dashboard screen does offer now playing metadata from web radio services.

BMW's system wasn't on display, but reps said it supported Pandora and MOG (though only through iPhones). Again, their cars include Bluetooth and USB support for playing any web radio or audio content.

The same was true of Volvo and Infiniti, though neither had in-dash support for apps like other manufacturers.

The most confusing system by far was Ford's MyFord Touch, which offered a mind-boggling interface that was nearly impossible for us to use. Much better was Ford's "basic" Sync system (pictured below left, in the process of creating a new Pandora station), which relies on voice commands rather than a touch screen. Those commands can control Slacker, iHeartRadio, Pandora or Stitcher (through a connected smartphone). You can even thumbs-up songs on Pandora or start new stations using voice commands.

Ford's basic Sync system

Toyota's EnTune system was strangely not available for a "test drive," even though it was prominently featured throughout their floorspace. EnTune supports iHeartRadio and Pandora (again, it requires a connected smartphone).

Both Toyota and Ford can stream any audio or web radio content via Bluetooth, USB or aux-in ports, which appeared to be available in most models.

In the end, it was clear that car manufacturers' "support" for certain apps like Pandora or iHeartRadio -- while most certainly helpful, both to drivers and the services -- isn't really necessary to listen to Internet radio while driving. All you need for that is a smartphone, web radio app and Bluetooh, a USB cord or an auxiliary audio cable.

Other observations from the Auto Show:

  • In-car hard drives for music (and video!) were common. BMW, for example, offers a built-in 12GB hard drive in some models, while Audi offers two SD card slots in the dashboard. As one BMW rep told us, "Why worry about your iPod or iPhone when your car is basically an iPod?"
  • Most models listed support for SiriusXM and even HD radio, but these felt almost expected, like having cup holders. Pandora and smartphone support appeared to be promoted more on banner and displays.
  • That said, some car reps were on shaky ground when discussing Internet radio support (though, in all fairness, they were probably expecting more questions about transmissions than the capabilities of Bluetooth audio streaming).
  • One Toyota rep told us he uses Bluetooth support in his own Toyota car to listen to YouTube music videos while driving. That stuck me as a fascinating insight into how consumers listen to music (as well as yet another reason to be cautious while driving).

Plenty of web radio-sporting models to be found in Chicago Tribune's "must-see" list for Chicago Auto Show

Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 12:45pm

Toyota's NS4 concept carThe Chicago Tribune's thorough list of "vehicles not to miss" at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show includes quite a few models that support Internet radio.

There's the 2013 Acura ILX, for one, which will be debuted at the auto show and includes in-dash Pandora support. And the 2013 Ford Fusion will include the web radio-friendly SYNC system standard.

The Code 130R and Tru 140S concept cars from Chevy apparently boast built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, while Toyota's NS4 hybrid concept (pictured) includes an in-dash multi-touch screen to control everything from music to A/C.

The Tribune also recommends checking out the 2013 Buick Encore, 2013 Cadillac ATS, 2013 Ford Escape and the Toyota Prius c -- all of which can stream Internet radio in some way. You can find the Tribune's article here.

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