Sirius XM Meets iPhone, Chapter Two

By  |  Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 3:46 pm

XM Sirius iPhoneBack in June, satellite-radio provider Sirius XM released an iPhone application. It was missing much of the service’s signature content, was difficult to sign up for, and was dauntingly pricey compared to the bevy of free Internet radio services available on the iPhone. And other than that, it was swell.

Today, the company announced another iPhone product that’s potentially cooler: XM SkyDock, an iPhone peripheral that turns an iPhone or iPod Touch into a fancy color-screen satellite radio for your car. Unlike the iPhone app on its own, the dock delivers real satellite radio, so it includes the full complement of programming–everything from Howard Stern to old-time radio–and won’t suffer from the spottiness of AT&T’s 3G network. (I canceled my XM service in July and switched to listening to stuff like Slacker and Pandora on my iPhone; I’m happy with the music, but the signal keeps conking out on the road.)

The new dock will sell for $120 when it premieres this fall, and pipes audio to your car’s stereo via a new technology called PowerConnect that uses your car’s wiring harness to improve sound quality. (If PowerConnect works well, that’s news in itself–I’ve lost countless hours of my life to trying to coax acceptable audio out of FM transmitters from a bunch of manufacturers.)

One question mark that remains: How many folks who own iPhones or iPods Touch and find the SkyDock intriguing will think that satellite radio is worth the monthly cost? The standard plan is $12.95 a month (but there’s an additional $1.98 music royalty fee which the¬†pricing info page mysteriously doesn’t mention). In the world of iPhone economics, in which nearly everything except the phone and 3G service are cheap or free, that’s a lot of dough.

The cheapest way to get Sirius XM seems to be get rid of Sirius XM: In the weeks since I ditched the service, I’ve gotten repeated offers to renew for a year for $77, or half off the standard rate. Which is cheap enough to make it at least mildly tempting, although I still think that an iPhone equipped only with free and low-cost apps beats a satellite radio with a paid subscription when it comes to overall variety…


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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Jason Says:

    This is promising for XM but I wonder how they’ll handle the pricing. Under their current scheme, a customer will pay twice for what would seem like the same radio, a fee to listen to it while it’s tethered and another fee to listen when it’s not. On top of that, sounds like there will be two different apps for the different situations with separate presets even though the channels will overlap. Maybe they will just update the existing app.

    I have had XM for over 4 years and I was happy with 2 radios and online listening for just $21 dollars a month, I even have an antenna mounted on my roof. When my monthly bill crossed the $30 mark, though, I didn’t cancel but I scaled back to just my Inno and my iPhone app to bring my bill back down to the $20 mark that I’m more comfortable paying. This development is intriguing, but I don’t have my hopes up that this will bring back the ubiquity of my satellite radio without prohibitive costs.

    Thank you for all the ongoing coverage of this satellite radio saga that challenges us all to try to place a value on this service.

  2. Jason Says:

    Sorry to repost, but this still has me thinking… Programming quality aside, here’s my wish for satellite radio ubiquity, what do you think this would cost me upfront and per month:

    * My wife and I each have an iPhone, that’s two points of listening.
    * We would have this new docking hardware in each of our cars, plus a yet-to-be-developed home station that would work the same way, so that would be 3 different satellite connection points.
    * We would also like to have the service when we’re not at home or in the car, so that’s 2 non-satellite connections.

    That totals five different connection points, but only two listening points, so only two connection points will ever be active at one time. However, from what I’ve read the iPhone dock will have the tuner built in and the iPhone app will just be a controller, so the radio id that gets activated will probably be specific to each iPhone dock. Are they going to charge by the connection point or by the listening point?

  3. T. Aire Says:

    There is a DVD movie out about the whole Sirius XM/Mel K. story called: Stock Shock. Very good flick and explains stock market manipulation as well. Stock Shock is at and

  4. sfmitch Says:

    No doubt, this is really cool but, I really don’t understand the economics & usefulness of this.

    You pay $120 for the car kit (more than a dedicated actual Sirius XM car unit) and then can no longer use your iPhone for other purposes while listening to the radio!?

    What happens when you aren’t in the car? Is there a home unit, too?

    The more I think about it, the less this device makes sense to me.