How badly do you want to listen to
Sirius Satellite Radio
programming on your
With a little determination, you can. On Thursday morning, I logged onto my Sirius account with my iPhone and I was able to hear Sirius broadcasts in all of their commercial-free glory. Admittedly, I had to do a few questionable things in order to achieve this, taking steps that Apple would probably rather I didn't take.
There's also the fact that the uSirius application I loaded on to my iPhone wasn't created by Sirius but was instead made by rogue developers. However, this application shows that Sirius broadcasts can stream to an iPhone, a positive development for both it, its merger partner
XM Satellite Radio
, and satellite radio in general.
Hackers Get Sirius With the iPhone
var config = new Array(); config<BRACKET>"videoId"</BRACKET> = 1631265591; config<BRACKET>"playerTag"</BRACKET> = "TSCM Embedded Video Player"; config<BRACKET>"autoStart"</BRACKET> = false; config<BRACKET>"preloadBackColor"</BRACKET> = "#FFFFFF"; config<BRACKET>"useOverlayMenu"</BRACKET> = "false"; config<BRACKET>"width"</BRACKET> = 265; config<BRACKET>"height"</BRACKET> = 255; config<BRACKET>"playerId"</BRACKET> = 1243645856; createExperience(config, 8);
Listening to Sirius is as simple as clicking on the uSirius button on my iPhone screen, entering in my user name and password, and watching every Sirius channel load on my screen. Even over the EDGE data network, which is notorious for its slow speed compared with 3G networks, the stream was clear and rarely needed to pause to buffer. Over a WiFi connection, the service loads much faster on both an iPhone and an iPod Touch.
If you're thinking about doing this, keep a few things in mind before try out this application on your own iPhone. First, you need a so-called "jailbroken" iPhone.
Currently, Apple does not allow third-party developers to create programs for the iPhone, although that is set to change when the company releases
leading up to the July 11 launch of
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For now, hackers and developers have figured out a way to scale Apple's security gate and get into the iPhone in order to develop programs and install them directly onto the device.
Second, the uSirius program wasn't created by Sirius, so it's not official and is prone to a few glitches. On one occasion, the program froze up and I needed to restart my iPhone. The application essentially transmits the company's Internet broadcasts, so you will still need valid Sirius account information to log in and begin streaming music. Even the hackers can't give you Sirius programming for free.
Lastly, running this program constantly over the EDGE network will rapidly kill your phone's battery. After only 30 minutes of streaming, my fully charged iPhone saw about a third of its battery power zapped. This could possibly be remedied with a new 3G iPhone, which is said to have longer battery life and a faster 3G data connection. That all remains to be seen.
Representatives from Apple did not return requests for comment about policies on iPhone hacking or forthcoming releases from its App Store. Sirius representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the uSirius program or if they have their own official iPhone application in the pipeline.
However, XM acknowledged it is taking steps of its own to create an official iPhone native application. An XM spokesman pointed to comments made during a conference in New York earlier this month by Vernon Irvin, XM's executive vice president and chief marketing officer, who mentioned that the satellite radio provider has begun work on an iPhone client for XM's service.
"It makes logical sense that an
iPhone application from XM or Sirius would eventually exist," says RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank. "XM sort of slipped this fact out there. When it first was said no one was paying attention to it. Now, it doesn't sound like such a crazy thing."
Of course, streaming feeds to a mobile device is not a novel idea. Right now, Sirius programming is accessible by
PCS Vision phones for a monthly fee of $6.95, with 20 channels available to subscribers. By comparison the uSirius program on the iPhone has more than 85 channels available at no additional cost, just as long as you already have a valid membership with Sirius.
Meanwhile, XM broadcasts are currently available on mobile devices such as
Research In Motion's
Blackberry, although only 20 of the satellite radio provider's 170 channels are available.
, which was recently acquired by
, can listen to 25 channels on a mobile device for a monthly fee of either $7.99 or $8.99.
If released, an official XM application would be loaded onto an iPhone through Apple's new App Store, which is set to launch with the new iPhone software package early next month. However, XM's Irvin offered no indication as to whether the channel listing will be incomplete, much like the Blackberry and AT&T services, or whether there will be an additional charge.
Still, RBC's Bank doesn't yet view the uSirius program or even official applications from XM and Sirius as major developments for satellite radio, as the application merely streams the Internet broadcast over the data network, as opposed to satellite radio programming being beamed directly to the phone.
"You could just as easily stream Sirius over the Web, which is essentially what the iPhone is doing," Bank says. "It's neat, and maybe it will bring them some additional subscribers. But at the end of the day, with the iPhone, you miss the point."
Bank adds that a "game changer would have to be a fully functional XM-Sirius receiver in an iPhone, one that you wouldn't rely on a terrestrial network for. Otherwise, it's all additive. It would need to ignite the after-market retail product."
Sirius and XM could certainly use some sort of "game changer" as shares have fallen to their lowest levels in five years as both wait for a resolution to their proposed merger. While the Justice Department waved the deal through in March, both are waiting for a ruling from the Federal Communications Commission, which has taken more than 15 months to make a decision.
Sirius shares have tumbled roughly 45% to $1.81 since the deal was announced in March 2007 and have plummeted nearly 70% over the last three years. XM shares have lost more than 40% over the last 15 months to $7.35, and are down more than 75% over the last three years.