Middle-tier radio owner Emmis Communications has announced that it will demonstrate an HD Radio equipped smartphone at a press event this coming Monday at the 2012 NAB Show. The prototype phone was developed in conjunction with Intel and iBiquity, which owns the HD Radio system, but few other details are available, including what operating system it runs and what smartphone manufacturer might be willing to run with the ball.
Effectively what we can expect is a proof of concept, which means that a ready-to-ship phone is months, if not years away. While having an HD Radio capable smartphone has seemed like a silver bullet for the commercial radio industry, it seems like that bullet has tarnished over time. It’s telling that the relatively small player Emmis is the company behind the prototype rather than the likes of Clear Channel or CBS. Clear Channel, in particular, has seemed to be backing away from HD Radio in favor of its iHeartRadio platform and smartphone apps.
The logical question to ask is what incentive do the major smartphone manufacturers have to add HD Radio functionality? I seriously doubt it’s a feature that the average consumer will pay more to get. I can actually see the carriers possibly wanting it as a way to offer consumers some free content that doesn’t suck up any mobile bandwidth. Nevertheless, I think that reasoning is a stretch. On top of that, because HD signals are broadcast at lower power than the main analog signal, HD reception can be pretty spotty on a mobile device. Arguably in urban areas it will be easier to keep an maintain streaming radio bandwidth than keeping a solid HD signal.
It’s also telling that this story has only been picked up by the radio industry press and Inside Indiana Business; Emmis is headquartered in Indianapolis. Not a peep has appeared in the gadget blogosphere, which otherwise isn’t particularly discriminating in picking up just about any electronics tech news. We’ll have to wait ’til Monday to learn more.