Satellite Radio

october 21, 2013

The three-month free Sirius XM subscription which came with my new Toyota Avalon ends in a week and I have found that I don't really use it much. The sound quality of Sirius XM is quite disappointing -- tinny and not very full. And there is a lot of content being broadcast, but much of it doesn't interest me as it isn't personalized.

The reason I haven't been using Sirius XM is that there are alternatives built-into the head unit of my Avalon. There is of course terrestrial radio, which is choke full of commercials, but still a good avenue for music and news. And HD radio actually sounds pretty good on the handful of stations here in the Bay Area. Then there is iHeartRadio which brings in some decent content.

The place where I have been getting the lion share of entertainment while commuting to and from work is Pandora. Accessing Pandora from the head unit results in commercial free and higher quality audio -- things that normally come from a paid Pandora One account. The stream is 64kbps AAC+, which sounds better than Sirius XM. The content on Pandora is good enough to keep me (and the family) entertained. And the content is tailored to my tastes based on feedback.

I understand that there are still people willing to pay for the convenience of satellite radio -- setting up Toyota Entune and getting bluetooth setup for data from a mobile phone raises the bar for entry. And while some will mistakenly say that the cost of having Pandora (or iHeartRadio) in the car is free, it is not since one has to have both a smartphone and a mobile data plan that can cover the data needed to listen to Pandora.

What Sirius XM has that Pandora and iHeartRadio haven't is Howard Stern, sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, NASCAR, etc) and some specialized stuff like Martha Stewart radio. All of which I could live without, but some may not -- like those who just have to have sports.

So, yup, I have been using a lot of mobile data and enjoying my commutes more nowadays. All of it commercial free and tailored to my tastes. And none of it costing more than I already pay for.