Digital music hitchhikes on Moto cell phones

Motorola introduces iRadio, a new service that uses mobile phones to make Internet radio portable.

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
covers games and gadgets.
David Becker
2 min read
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--Motorola previewed a new service Monday that will use cell phones to make Internet radio portable.

The company's new iRadio technology, demonstrated at the Demo conference, tweaks existing hardware and services to make the music streams offered by sites such as Yahoo Music and AOL Music ready for on-the-go listening.

The service begins with a media-ready phone with sufficient storage, initially via SD flash memory cards. A PC set up with iRadio software will automatically record selected Internet music streams onto the phone whenever it's connected to the PC. The software can also download songs purchased from participating online stores.

Stick the phone in your pocket, and you've got hours of new music or favorite tunes you own. You can listen to them over headphones straight from the phone or through a car stereo equipped with Motorola's new iRadio Bluetooth adapter for wireless connectivity. The phone serves as both a media server and a remote control for the car stereo.

The main idea behind iRadio is to piggyback on technology people are already familiar with, said Mike Gaumond, vice president of media solutions for Motorola, instead of requiring them to adopt expensive new gadgets and services. "I already know how to use my car radio; I already have my mobile phone with me all the time," he said. "That's what we're leveraging."

Speaking of new gadgets, Motorola made another mobile music play on Monday, announcing the E1060 handset at the 3GSM show in Cannes, France. The upcoming phone will store and play music, featuring Apple's iTunes Music Player--which Motorola said last year will become the default music player on Motorola phones.

For iRadio, Motorola is forging alliances with most popular streaming music sites and has already worked out some of the thornier issues surrounding copyrights. Streaming music stored on your phone will only play once; songs you own are unlimited.

Motorola plans to start a trial version of iRadio in a few months, with iRadio-compatible devices, software and services set to arrive in the final quarter of 2005. The service initially will be restricted to a few media-ready phones, but rapid growth in storage, processing power and sound quality in phones will ensure steady growth in the number of devices that can work with the service, Gaumond said.

Motorola is also working with makers of MP3 players interested in adopting the service. "They're really interested in this as something that will give customers a way to discover new music," he said.