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Howard: Smartphone Apps Critical to Sirius

Howard Stern’s been pushing Sirius XM’s smartphone app (available on Android, iPhone, Blackberry) aggressively and today he remarked that Sirius, now armed with reach to smartphone users Sirius (his show in particular) will more effectively crush terrestrial radio. Robin noted her pleasant gym experience yesterday with her phone linked into Sirius yesterday. I thought to myself that it was a positive thing to go out and get some coffee and Red Bull (I’m trying to switch from Red Bull to coffee but now I’m caught drinking both) a little earlier without having to interrupt my listening.

Provided this is on the various app markets internationally, by my math that is more people who may want to subscribe as Sirius’s satellites beam down only to the US and Canada – and in Canada they don’t get Stern. Their government finds his show too inappropriate. Sirius just secured FCC approval to broadcast to Alaska and Hawaii and outfit the states with repeaters.

Up until now, he said, you could only listen when you’re either in your home or your car, whereas you carry your phone 24/7, drawn in more strongly than by free FM radio because of Sirius’s programming and your phone’s lack of an FM receiver. Having acquired XM, Sirius is the only game in town and may now realize its investors’ expectations back in 2000 when Howard jumped on board – the stock hit $63, fizzled down to single digits within that year and went on to face bankruptcy. Now the company’s in the black, they’ve got Howard for another five years and now they can hit cell phones with Howard Stern who also said they should drop the XM and just call it Sirius (I agree).

One area of concern, bandwidth. Listening to an entire Stern show or a couple Grateful Dead concerts (4-6 hours) at a stream that flutters around 10KB/s, what is that, 200MB? Whatever it is, that’s not a lot of Howard over the course of a month AT&T subscribers can enjoy before being “upgraded” to the more expensive plans. Silver lining for those folks, if they live in midtown Manhattan or San Francisco they may not have enough throughput to listen anyway and won’t need to worry.

Back to the app, what would make it better is if it would indicate the bitrate, let you switch to the higher or lower quality on your own (or automatically based on network performance), count bytes for you, maybe a widget, let you hit pause as it buffers up with DVR-like controls (I’m basically describing SiriusWM5+TCPMP) but I’ll settle for this. Maybe someone else will improve it. The official Android app, been up since late December, has had over 250K downloads.

Oh one more thing, their website’s player. The damn thing still only supports IE. What the hell is that?

Doug Simmons