The App that May Destroy Satellite Radio

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Want the perks of satellite radio without having to pay the big subscription fee? There’s an app for that.

The Livio Car Internet Radio app, currently available for iPhone and in the works for Android phones, lets users listen to Internet-only radio stations as well as AM and FM stations from around the world. While you can listen to the radio while out and about with your phone, Livio’s real goal is to have users mount the phone in their cars and use this app in place of their car radio.

The paid version of the app ($4.99) gives users access to 42,000 radio stations, allowing you to tune in to local stations based on your phone’s GPS signal. Users can also browse a seemingly endless list of Internet radio stations by genre to find everything from bluegrass to new wave. Plus there is a tool that lets you find stations similar those you’ve already listened to and enjoyed.

The app also incorporates social networking, so not only can you save your favorite stations, you can share them with friends via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

Livio worked with Pandora and NPR in the past to produce real radios (you know, the kind your grandma keeps on the kitchen counter), but this is their first venture into the smartphone app world.

In general, I try to avoid apps that charge more than $1.99 (I’m cheap), but paying a one-time fee of $4.99 gets you most of the same features as a satellite radio, all for much, much less. A satellite radio, such as Sirius XM’s unit, can cost as much as $200, plus a monthly service charge of $10 or more. With Livio, there is no added service fee.

One small complaint about the app is that it only allows you to preset six stations, which may be fine for normal car radios, but when you have thousands to choose from, you may want to have a few more than that. Beyond that, there is always the worry that if you driving through an area without a signal, the radio app will be rendered essentially useless and you'll have to resort to the normal radio. But that is more a problem of the medium than the app itself.

Ultimately, this is among the most promising radio apps on the iPhone and potentially a great tool to cut down the costs of improving your car’s entertainment options.

For its part, Sirius XM radio, the leading satellite radio company, did release their own iPhone app last year, but it received terrible reviews for leaving out many of the best radio stations they had to offer, and charging users $13 a month for service. Perhaps Livio’s app will force them to rethink this strategy.

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