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The Smart Phone Killed The Car Radio

In 1997 I drove a beat up Honda up to LA to meet with the major record labels. I wanted to show them the PC would become the center of people's music life thanks to the new found capabilities MP3 brought. Music fans could warehouse massive music libraries, organize their music, make custom playlists, burn CDs and share that music experience with others. Those I met with scoffed at the notion that the home stereo would be replaced by the PC remarking that "most PCs don't even have speakers!" The major labels could only see the computer as a word-processor. But, I knew that the PC would displace the home stereo and become the music hub.

I have the same feeling today about the car radio getting stream rolled by the smart phone. Today's smart phone has a virtually unlimited audio catalog thanks to the net. Much of the content is interactive (meaning users can rewind, fast forward and skip ahead 30 sec). Many in the radio industry scoff at the notion of the phone replacing the ubiquitous AM/FM car radio. They say that users don't want/need a big library of programming - just the morning DJ / sports talker / political commentator that happens to be offered in their town. If that were true, why wouldn't listeners want those same shows in the afternoon for their drive home? The radio industry sees the ability to rewind/fast forward as unnecessary. They think that radio fans are passive robots who are content to just sit and listen. But, every indication I see in magazines, on TV, Twitter, blogs, etc. tells me that users want control.

DAR.fm now allows everyone to record AM/FM radio and have it automatically downloaded to any smart phone or tablet. I've put together some videos which show how to automatically sync radio shows to an iPad, iPhone, Android, or a PC to use with other mobile devices. (iPad/iPhone users click here) Whenever I jump into my car or travel, my phone already has a few episodes of my favorite radio shows ready for me to listen to. This YouTube video shows how I mount my smart phone and plug it into my car's stereo system.

Click to Play
Connect your smart phone to your car radio

My smart phone has already made my car radio obsolete because I rarely listen to broadcast radio. I'm not alone. More than half of adults 18-24 have used a portable MP3 player or phone for audio in their car. 41% are interested in rewinding, fast forward and pause (and I think the rest don't even know it's now possible and they'll want it to once they experience it). Radio purists dismiss smart phones as a threat to the AM/FM radio, but there was a day when every house had a home stereo too.

-- MR




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