January 20, 2009
| by Ben Hardy
“Stand-alone” Internet Radio devices are also on the rise. Featuring built-in speakers, these products also wirelessly connect to the home’s network, but don’t require a home audio system for listening pleasure. Grace Audio’s Wireless Internet Radio looks and acts like the portable AM/FM radios of old, what with the built-in 3” ported speaker, digital display and alarm features. The difference is that this device can play over 15,000 Internet radio stations from all over the world, and also connects users to Pandora for that “personalized” listening experience. Or, if one prefers, it will also play music from the home’s digital library. If the built-in speaker isn’t doing it for you, it can also be connected to the home audio system. The Grace Audio Wireless Internet Radio retails for $199.
The S-32 from Denon is another one of these “Networked Audio Players,” retailing for $499. Like Grace Digital’s radio, the S-32 has wireless networking capabilities, connecting to Internet Radio sources without the need for a PC. A built-in iPod docking station increases source options, and Rhapsody service broadens the musical selection for the user.
As more consumers change their radio station by clicking a mouse, expect to see more Internet Radio devices designed to change the way Internet Radio is listened to. Here are some of the features a consumer might look for in such a device:
- Wireless connectivity
- Wired (Ethernet) connectivity
- Can stream digital library
- Access to large database of Internet Radio Stations
- Access to personalized Internet Radio service (such as Pandora)
- Access to on-demand Internet Radio service (such as Rhapsody)
- Built-in speakers
- Capable of connected to home audio receiver/system
- iPod or iPhone docking station
- USB port
- Remote control
Radio on the Go
Satellite radio service enabled motorists to receive (mostly) uninterrupted and ad-free radio wherever they went. Service extended easily into the home, where satellite radio devices integrated with home audio systems to spray cosmically transmitted tunes throughout the home.
The advanced 3G and 4G networks utilized by cellular service providers, coupled with feature-rich phones, are bringing Internet Radio service to users on the go. “The iPhone has really transformed the industry,” says Westergren, who added that over 10 percent of Pandora’s daily listeners are doing so through their iPhone. Cellular providers like Sprint and AT&T include Internet Radio service as an option for their subscribers—Pandora access costs $3/month for Sprint users and $8/month for AT&T users. iPhone users can access Pandora for free. Windows Mobile handsets like the HTC Touch (Sprint), HTC XV6900 (Verizon), and Motorola Q9C (Sprint and Verizon) also feature free access to Pandora service.
Slacker recently released the G2, a portable music player that plays “pre-loaded” Internet Radio content—like an MP3 player, users can take it anywhere, pop in a pair of headphones, and start rocking out. The difference is that, instead of scrolling through a library of songs or playing a playlist, the G2 acts just like the Slacker.com service, playing a song list as if it were an Internet Radio station. When in Wi-Fi service it will connect and update “stations” with new songs, always refreshing and refining content according to the user preferences for genre, artist, etc. Two G2s are available—one that will store 25 stations (2500 songs, 4GB) at a time, and one that will store 40 stations (4000, 8GB) songs at a time, retailing for $200 and $250, respectively. The G2 will also act as a traditional MP3 player, storing and playing owned music files from one’s personal digital library.
As user demand for Internet Radio service grows, look for a wider range of products and devices that push the content into every corner of our lives, whether at home, at work, or on the go.
Click here to view slideshow of a handful of devices designed for enhancing the Internet Radio experience.
Between watching re-runs of the The Jetsons and convincing his Insteon and Z-Wave controls to get along, Ben Hardy is immersed in the world of home automation, home control, and home networking.