New DAB+ phone to boost digital radio

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 14 March 2016
Commercial Radio Australia chief executive Joan Warner.

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) expects take up of digital radio to “skyrocket” following the launch of the world's first DAB+ enabled smartphone.

Unveiled at the Radioday Europe conference in Paris, the LG Stylus DAB+ device is the first to have a built-in DAB+ digital radio. It is expected to launch in Australia later this year, as part of an exclusive deal with a major telco.

CRA CEO Joan Warner, who has high-hopes after phone manufacturers will follow suit, says the phone will allow users to listen to radio for free, unlike existing streaming apps that use hefty amounts of data.

“It's like giving people back the whole idea of a transistor radio,” Warner tells AdNews.

“Instead of consumers having to use their data or drain their battery using a streaming app to listen to radio, this actually says to people you can have all of these great stations for free.”

The phone was developed by LG in conjunction with global radio broadcast organisation, the International DMB Advancement Group (IDAG), of which CRA is a founding member.

Warner says she sees the launch of the phone similar to the first car that had a DAB+ capability, which saw a jump from 42,000 cars with the feature in 2012, to 460,000 at last count, as a result of more manufacturers coming on board.

It is thought that other, big name phone manufacturers are now in discussions to also include DAB+ capabilities now there is global support from radio broadcasters.

“I think it will mean the take up of DAB+ will skyrocket again,” Warner says. “We're hoping that with enough support and interest from radio listeners this will be something that other phone manufacturers will say 'we better put this on our devices'.”

In addition, the DAB+ handset will also allow the broadcast of images and texts on screen. Broadcasters can develop their own tailored apps for the phone which will see internet services complement broadcast radio.

As to whether the launch of DAB+ enabled phone will put the radio industry a step ahead of streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify, Warner says while the industry is hoping it will, CRA maintains that those services aren’t competitors to radio.

“We'd like to think so because there is so much variety with DAB+; you can get just about any style of music or entertainment that you like,” Warner says.

“We've always said we don't see the music streaming services as competitors. They are competitors for share of ear – there is no doubt about that – but they are no more a competitor than when people used to have an mp3 player or an iPod.”

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