Tag Archives | Satellite Radio

A Tale of Two Receivers: XM Skydock vs. XM Onyx

Sirius XM announced two new XM receiver devices this week – the Skydock ($120) and the Onyx ($80). Both are scheduled for a fall delivery and, I’m guessing, they’re targeting different audiences. While choice is good, I’m not sure the Skydock will be worth the 50% premium over the Onyx for most.

The XM Skydock essentially turns an iPhone or iPod touch into a satellite display and controller tethered inside a car. Whereas the Onyx, for $40 less, sticks with the more traditional plug & play receiver form – and is bundled with a vehicle kit, but presumably home kits and maybe even boombox accessories (like this) will be available. Making it a more practical option for many. One device, one subscription, multiple locations. Additionally, as most folks know, the iPhone has a small problem with third party multitasking. Meaning, that while an iPhone may make a great satellite receiver when paired with the Skydock, you’ll have to stop the music to navigate or take a call. (Sirius XM could have minimized this limitation by integrating some sort of speakerphone functionality, perhaps utilizing the car speakers.)

I’ve got XM built into my vehicle, so I won’t need to make this decision. But I’m wondering which side other folks will fall on. Assuming you find satellite radio worthwhile.

[This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.]

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XM Pricing Alternatives

Yesterday I canceled my XM satellite service after five years. Today, the company asked me to take a survey for departing subscribers. It was filled with the questions you’d expect–mostly ones on why I chose to cancel. But one question focused on what might have gotten me to stay, and mentioned some specific price points:

XM Pricing Survey

Currently, XM costs…well, that’s a complicated question, but the standard package is now $12.95, plus a $2 music royalty fee, plus $2.99 if you want to listen online and/or on an iPhone. Other options start at $9.99, and it’s possible to spend $21 a month if you go for the “XM Everything Plus the Best of Sirius” package and want to listen online.

I don’t think any of the scenarios outlined in the survey involve a permanent price break–they’re likely sign-up deals, not unlike the ones that cable companies offer. Oddly enough, the deal that Sirius XM offers to try to convince folks not to cancel isn’t mentioned: $77 a year.

Truth to tell, I’m not sure if Sirius XM can charge less than it does: Between the cost of the satellites and the cost of music royalties and the money it’s forking over to folks like Howard Stern, Oprah, and Major League Baseball, it’s an inherently spendy business.

Incidentally, the “Mostly Music” and “Sports, News and Talk” options mentioned above are trick questions: XM already offers them and is apparently trying to determine if people know they exist. (I didn’t until recently, and might have sprung for one if it wasn’t for the fact that neither one entitles you to pay $2.99 a month extra for online listening.)

How much is satellite radio worth? Well, it all depends on how much you listen to it. But to repeat myself, what would tempt me right now is a plan aimed at folks who only want to listen on an iPhone. If the rep who took my call yesterday had offered me that for $99 or so a year, I wouldn’t be ex-XM.


I’m an Ex-XM Subscriber

iPhone XM RadioLast week, I was thinking about replacing the XM satellite receiver in my car with my iPhone 3GS.  Now the deed is done: I called XM this afternoon and canceled my service, more than five years after I first became an XM fan. From now on, nearly all the audio I listen to in my car will be piped from my phone. (I do listen to local NPR stations, and may continue to do so via Plain Old FM Radio at least part of the time.)

I enjoyed XM enough over the years that I’m not leaving as an unhappy camper, even though the last couple of years were pretty dang rocky–the service kept raising prices (it now charges $18 a month for what was once $10) and dropping stuff I liked to listen to (Harry Shearer, all of MSNBC). But I don’t want to fiddle with two separate devices in my car, and when I had to make a decision, I opted for the iPhone. It gives me tens of thousands of radio stations for the cost of my AT&T data plan. Plus customizable “radio” from Last.fm, Pandora, and Slacker. Plus a bevy of podcasts. Plus audio books. Plus all my own music. Given all that, I’m willing to live with the fact that it’s not as convenient a car radio as my XM Xpress receiver was. Did I mention it also does GPS navigation and lets me make phone calls?

Some folks have reported having trouble canceling satellite radio or being offered cheap or free service as an enticement to keep the account. I had to wait a half hour on hold to speak to a real person, who offered me a $77-a-year deal if I’d reconsider–but one that would only kick in when my current subscription ended next March, and would then extend to March, 2011.

In other words, even though I told him I was canceling because XM was too expensive, he suggested paying the same rate for eight more months, then continuing to pay for another year beyond that. I declined the offer; he canceled my service.

What XM didn’t offer me was the one thing that might have kept me around: An iPhone-only subscription at a competitive price. (The $12.95 Sirius XM wants for online listening is too much given that it’s the same as the base rate for satellite listening, for a lineup that lacks much of the service’s signature programming and has dozens fewer channels.) I’ll bet I’m not the only XM defector who might have stuck around for a decent iPhone plan…and if it ever offers one I might be back. But for now, I’m ex-XM.

I’ll let you know how my iPhone-as-a-car-radio experiment goes. I already know I like the three customized 1960s stations I’ve created with Slacker a lot more than XM’s Sixties on 6…


Learning to Leave Satellite Radio

iPhone XM RadioI’ve been making noises about the idea of retiring my XM satellite radio receiver, canceling my account, and using my iPhone as an audio device in my car for a while now. The more XM charges and the less I like its programming, the more tempting the idea becomes. Now I’ve finally gone and taken a necessary step: figured out a workable way to pump my iPhone’s audio through my car stereo.

This was surprisingly difficult, which one reason why I’ve dawdled as long as I have. My car is a 2004 Mazda3, dating from an era in which cars didn’t come with iPhone integration and even mundane AUX ports were rare. (I did pay extra for a six-CD changer…which I ended up using maybe four times.) I went through an array of wireless FM transmitters for both my various iPods and my various satellite radios, and even the best ones were staticky hassles. I also spent more than $100 and a considerable amount of time on a fancy-schmancy kit that connected my iPod to my Mazda stereo system–it sounded greated, but caused the iPod to have some sort of digital nervous breakdown that rendered it unusable.

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Sirius XM Stoops to a New Low: Reinforcing Stereotypes

n60295042574_2509149_5300459It’s no secret that a lot of satellite radio users are quite unhappy with the merger of Sirius and XM. Sirius XM has taken a beating for its questionable programming decisions, as well as its sometimes apparent obliviousness to channel formats.

The latest example involves Sirus XM’s BPM channel, the service’s supposed dance station, which has been anything but lately. Fans have voiced their outrage across the Internet, from Sirius XM fan boards to the channel’s Facebook page. That anger reached a fever pitch Tuesday night with the debut of the Dsquared show.

Dsquared is Dan and Dean Caten, a fashion duo from Europe. What is their connection to dance music? Who knows. But their new show debuted Tuesday night, called Dean and Dan on Air: Style in Stereo. What followed was the most stereotypical portrayal of the gay community I have heard in a long time.

While the music they played was one thing–completely off format–the way Mr. and Mr. Caten portrayed themselves was Godawful.

When you could understand them (they mumbled for 50% of the show), their topics of discussion had nothing to do with dance music. They also reinforced the stereotype of the effeminate, fashion-loving, and pretentious gay man–to the point it was grating.

I don’t know where Sirius XM and BPM are trying to go with this, so I won’t even guess. In any case, the show not go over well at all with listeners. On BPM’s Facebook page, not a single review was positive. Here are a few examples:

I am a young gay man. And those two things that were on the DSQUARED show. So distasteful. That show needs to be pulled off ASAP!

These guys give gay people a bad name, seriously. Way to set gay rights back 100 years. Awesome job! NEWS FLASH, there are more than just gay people listening to dance music.

this show is horrible, and sxm should be ashamed of themselves for putting on such a stereotyping show…

This dsquared show is beyond terrible….GET RID OF IT!!!!!!! Dance music does not equal fashion in America…not everyone who likes dance music is gay (no offense to gay people)

I can’t say it much better than these folks. If you’ve got satellite radio, I suggest you also take a listen for yourself–here’s the schedule. Please take this mess off the air, Sirius XM. And start listening to your subscribers. After all, they’re paying your paychecks.


iPhone Gets Major League Baseball Audio. Be Afraid, Sirius XM. Be Very Afraid.

Babe RuthI’ve written a fair amount about the annoying post-merger state of Sirius XM satellite radio, as well as chatted about it with folks offline, and nearly every time I’ve expressed frustration, I’ve said something to the effect of “if it weren’t for baseball, I’d consider dumping XM and just plugging my iPhone into my car stereo so I can listen to streaming radio apps.” And I’m sure there are other folks who feel the same way.

Looks like that “if it weren’t for” will soon be inoperative. My friend Jason Snell of Macworld has blogged that the upcoming 2009 edition of the MLB At-Bat app for the iPhone will support Gameday Audio, allowing baseball nuts to tune in their hometown broadcasts (that would be the Red Sox for me) on the phone. As Jason writes, MLB At-Bat costs $5 and PC-based Gameday Audio costs $15 a season. But you gotta think that there’s no scenario in which Gameday Audio on the iPhone won’t cost far less than I’m shelling out for XM.

Is anything else that’s exclusive to XM so lovable that I’d keep the service to get it? I’ve grown sort of fond of the Siriusly Sinatra station, with its shows hosted by Nancy Sinatra and Jonathan Schwartz. But I think I can tune in Schwartz on an iPhone via his WNYC gig, and I suspect I can find enough standards music on the iPhone to keep myself entertained.

Oh yeah: I also have to figure out the best way to let my car stereo–which lacks an AUX port–tap into the iPhone. I have terrible luck with wireless FM transmitters, and have been using something called an FM Direct adapter that lets me connect my XM receiver directly to my car’s antenna. It works wonderfully well, but I don’t know if there’s anything comparable that’s iPhone-compatible. (if not, there should be!)

One way or another, though, I suspect there’s a good chance I’ll be an ex-XM subscriber come opening day.