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Monday, March 26, 2012
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Radio in Cellphones, an Example Uncovered!

Thought a recent personal event carried relevancy at Audio Graphics. Before discussing it, though, I want to mention a sign that the radio industry is starting to understand the internet is not about it but its communities.

CBS Radio launched "YourDay" last week. In the words of Karen L. Mateo, the company's Senior Vice President of Communications: "CBS is hyper-focusing on catering to the local consumer and advertiser providing content specific to their hometown." From what I've read that seems to be exactly what's happening with "YourDay." I need to give it a few days of personal exploration before giving you the rundown, which will come later this week.

"As an emergency notification system, a radio in a cellphone is moot until the radio industry begins delivering locally-relevant content at times of emergency." Meanwhile, I have uncovered a personal experience of interest on the topic about this drive by the radio industry to force receivers in cellphones.

This won't take long and will perhaps be forgotten as soon as you've digested these words. But as radio in cellphones goes, the Dardis household has had this capability for a long time.

Here's the scoop. While I'm someone who keeps up on all the latest gadgets by either acquiring them or seeking out people who have them so I can personally get hands-on experience, the one thing I don't/can't do is buy every new item that hits the stores. Even upgrading to the latest (of what I have) is out of the question expect in rare circumstances. It's often a bit too expensive.

For the above reason I still possess one of the first generation smartphones, the Treo, a Blackberry wannabe. My wife has also held on to her first generation dumbphone (with internet connectivity) for about six years. The neighbors all have iPhones and Droids; so if I need to check out how software coding I've done works on them, it's a simple knock on their door and a "let me see your phone." I have good neighbors who are more than willing to oblige.

Anyway, this weekend I needed to transfer photos from my wife's phone (emailing fails) to her iPad. While going through the phone menu there it was on the screen - "Radio". Whoa, what's this? As it turns out, my wife's Nokia 6235i phone has an FM tuner.

Have to admit, at seeing this there was a moment of excitement. Here I had a cellphone with a radio in it to examine - so I did.

You can finally be treated to words from someone who's actually laid their hands on one of these life-saving phones. Here are a couple of observations:

Sound quality is not offensive. It reminds me of the early days when people carried transistor radios with earplugs delivering the programs (there is a "speaker" option to listen).

Only the FM band is represented, so it leaves out the first choice for breaking news in our town - WTAM News Radio, an AM 50,000-watt blowtorch with a slug line, "If you need to know, depend on us." This, by the way, has proven to be an empty promise on several occasions - here is one example. (Fact: The example also demonstrates a lack of follow-through in general by Cleveland Ohio's FM stations during emergencies.)

The value of this "radio feature" on the cellphone is something that my wife and I disagree on. She says it would have been tried in a crisis with no electricity had she known about its existence, and if she had headphones to connect (which are required to listen). I'm on the other side; I believe that if it's radio she wants, she would have turned to the receiver that sits (unused) in our front room, her iPad, or a computer, given we have a home generator for such occasions.

We both agree on this: As an emergency notification system, a radio in a cellphone is moot until the radio industry begins delivering locally-relevant content at times of emergency. This is not something that's lacking only in Cleveland; there are plenty of reports on empty studios, and no coverage provided during emergencies by occupied studios as well (for another, try here). It's a matter of staffing and planning, both radio weak links.

A radio in a cellphone? At last I have one in my hands to test and report on. Now all I need is a bona fide emergency to give you the lowdown on its usefulness under those conditions.

That report will be presented, as they say, as more details become available.

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