Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Does a Smart Phone and Pandora beat Sirius Satellite Radio?

It depends.  I love Pandora.  It rekindled my love for music and expanded my taste in music.  Some of my favorite Pandora stations are Taylor Swift, Bee Gees, and Old Crow Medicine Show.  All three are genres I wouldn't listen too without being able to try them on Pandora.

I'm also a fan of Sirius, although not as much since I found Pandora.  I like Sirius' selection and love the technology--it's great to listen to the same station for hours at a time in the car without interruption.  On the boat in the middle of Lake Michigan it's a life saver.  The music selection, however, doesn't seem as broad as Pandora's.

My other favorite app is TuneIn Radio.  It boasts over 70,000 radio stations across the world.  I can use it to listen to nearly any music or talk radio station in the world.  I'm listening to folk music from Snow Hill Island, Antarctica as I type this.

When my 4+ year old Sirius receiver stopped working about the time I got my Nexus 4 with T-Mobile service and Karen her iPhone 5 with Sprint, I had a decision to make:  replace the Sirius and continue paying $150/year, or make use of the smart phones and apps.  I decided to try the smart phone and apps and bought the GOgroove FlexSMART X2 Wireless In-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter from Amazon.  After a month...

The Good

  • Sound quality is better than Sirius.  Pandora through both the Nexus and iPhone has a richer, fuller sound.  The Sirius sounds tinny in comparison.
  • I enjoy the musical selection more than Sirius.  It's easier to find music that fits my mood, and there are no annoying DJs.
  • It doesn't use that much data.  In my first month I haven't come close to using the 2GB of data T-Mobile gives me as part of my plan.
  • It's less expensive than Sirius, even with the Pandora One subscription ($3.99/month).
The Bad
  • You're dependent on the mobile data network.  It's fine in the city.  It can be a problem in rural areas.  On a recent trips to Frankenmuth, Michigan (near Saginaw) and Bloomington, Indiana there were stretches without any music from either of our phones.  This was NEVER a problem with Sirius.
  • It didn't "just work" like the Sirius did.  Karen's phone doesn't consistently pair to the FlexSmart and you have to take the phone out of your pocket or bag to play music, a pain on a multiple stop trip.
  • If you like Sirius's programming (i.e. Saturday Night Safety Dance, Top 40 countdowns from the  '80s) you're out of luck. 
  • I had had to change radio frequencies every few miles in the city.  I've since solved the problem by using the Sirius FM Relay Kit I already had in the car. 
The Verdict

It's not a perfect replacement for Sirius, but good enough for me.  I don't mind tinkering and can live with the bad.  For Karen who likes simplicity, it's not good enough.  We'll probably get another Sirius receiver and renew our subscription.

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