Samsung Shape

Latest WiFi speaker to assault home radio … wait, it IS a radio

Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 12:40pm

This is the season of wireless speakers. We have written recently about the Samsung Shape, the Bose SoundTouch, and the Sonos Play:1. Each one of these WiFi-enabled speakers can stream a music collection from a computer, and access whatever online music services are bundled into the controller apps. This product category clearly seeks to displace home radio receivers, just as online music services potentially bite into AM/FM listening generally.

A new, soon-to-be-released product from Revo, a Scottish audio device company founded in 2004, modifies that trend with a tabletop unit which combines over-the-air broadcast with Internet radio and music-service streaming. Mightily called the SuperConnect, it is a real radio with an FM tuner (accommodating DAB and DAB+), mashed together with WiFi streaming

Uniquely, the SuperConnect has baked-in Spotify Connect compatibility. Spotify Connect is a wireless flinging technology similar to Google’s Chromecast. It is designed for digital speaker systems to receive a Spotify stream playing on a smartphone. The user touches a Connect icon in the Spotify app, then selects which Connect-enabled reception device (like living room speakers) will pick up the stream. As of now, SuperConnect is the only radio receiver that works with Spotify Connect.

In addition to the unprecedented bundling of FM, WiFi, and Spotify Connect, the Revo SuperConnect contains an on-screen joystick controller that encourages the user to explore the far-flung universe of radio webcasts -- becoming the latest in a history of devices attempting to install borderless radio listening in the home. In this case, that function is not the main act, but an add-on to the main category of WiFi streaming, with a pioneering implementation of Spotify Connect.

TuneIn on Samsung Shape: reinventing radio and consumer behavior

Monday, October 7, 2013 - 10:15am

Samsung, whose products increasingly foster the untethered lifestyle, has come out with a wireless home sound system called Shape. It is so-called because the shape of Shape is … shapely. Most reviews compare Shape to Sonos, which, while nicely shaped in its own right, similarly streams Internet radio and locally stored music throughout a home. Both systems hook into the home’s WiFi, are controlled by smartphone apps, and can multitask -- which means different rooms can hear different streams, playlists, albums, etc..

The smartphone app which serves as the remote control for Shape comes with a few services pre-installed: Pandora, Rhapsody, and TuneIn. Those selections niftily cover a wide service spectrum: Pandora for pureplay Internet radio; Rhapsody for subscription-only interactive music collection; and TuneIn for aggregated terrestrial radio stations.

That last point is the most interesting -- in a device that resembles radio, and is meant to replace the radio set as a household appliance, AM/FM is represented by a digital streaming platform.

As such, Shape (and Sonos, which also makes TuneIn easily accessible), position AM/FM in the life of a mobile-centric, lean-in consumer. Shape and Sonos are receivers of a sort, but the received medium is an Internet signal over WiFi, enabling a incongruent mix of formats: downloaded songs stored on a computer (or in Amazon’s cloud service in the case of Sonos), playlists maintained on a discovery service (Rhapsody), IP-delivered AM/FM webcasts, and -- crucially -- time-shifted radio programming (both on TuneIn).

Shape and Sonos encourage users, and force programmers, to think of consumable content as liberated from rigid delivery formats and schedules. Audio is granularized and liquified. In one RAIN household, TuneIn is used primarily to hear NPR program podcasts, detached from the original broadcast schedule. That use is gradually displacing radio sets.

Products like Shape, when paired with new content platforms like TuneIn, strive to reinvent not only technology (in this case radio), but also consumer behavior, while preserving content programming, and even improving access to it.

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