Saturday, July 21, 2007

Action in the front seat

Here is a video showing how to connect your phone to your car stereo. As a quick note, the data service shown in the demo is the Sprint Power Vision unlimited for $14.99/month. No additional subscription fees or special software on the phone were required for the radio. It all worked out of the box.

Friday, July 6, 2007

List of Sprint phones that work

Just went to the local Sprint store to check prices and see which phones will work. Tested the available Power Vision phones using Tuner2 Mobile for 3GPP Internet radio streams. All phone prices listed are with the 2 year plan and any applicable discounts. Of course, you would need to have the phones enabled with the $15/monthly Power Vision Access plan as well. Here are the results...

Bottom line: For $29.99 (online deal only), you can get a phone which doubles as an Internet radio (m510 from Samsung), but the proprietary connector prevents you from using it in your car. The LG Fusic, priced at $79.99, has the needed "dual jack" to allow both power and audio to be connected at the same time, or you can use the built in FM xmitter.

Current phones that would work in the car:
  • LG Fusic: $79.99, connects to stereo via built in FM xmitter or headphone jack, separate power connection
  • Samsung Upstage: $99.99, connects via stereo Bluetooth (requires stereo Bluetooth adapter for your car)
  • Samsung m500: $79.99, connects via headphone jack, separate power connection
  • Sanyo M1 (untested): $199.99, connects via stereo Bluetooth (requires stereo Bluetooth adaper for your car)

Phones that work for personal listening, but not for the car:

  • Moto KRZR: $79.99, custom connector does not allow simultaneous connection to headphone and power
  • Moto RAZR v3m: $59.99, custom connector does not allow simultaneous connection to headphone and power
  • Samsung m510: $29.99, custom connector does not allow simultaneous connection to headphone and power
  • Sanyo SCP-8400: $99.99, couldn't tell if the audio jack was stereo or not.

I followed up with a trip to the Cingular store, but the demo phones didn't have Internet enabled on them. Ah, well, we will find a way in a later post.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Success with Sprint Power Vision

May 2006 - I dumped Verizon and got a new contract with Sprint. I had Verizon for over 3 years, but Verizon plays control freak on their network and won't even let you browse to HTML sites off the deck, let alone stream live audio content.

Sprint, on the other hand, gives you unlimited 3G Internet, including streaming, on the phone for just $15/month (Power Vision Access plan). Sure, that price doesn't include Sprint TV, or the other bundled content, but I didn't want that stuff. I just wanted the pure, sweet nectar of free flowing Internet. Sprint delivered. Also, since the EVDO network was just being rolled out in the major metros, the bandwidth would be the real thing.

Since I am a music lover, I purchased the Samsung SPH-A920. $149.99 with a two year contract. Similar phones available now are much cheaper (more on that in a later post.) The cool thing is that all Sprint Power Vision EVDO phones are 3GPP enabled, complete with aacPlus audio. This means that if a content provider knows their stuff, the streaming audio won't sound like it is underwater or coming from a tin-can.

Phone in hand, the next step was connecting it to the car. Since my 2002 PT Cruiser still has a cassette deck (yeah, I know...), I could use a $10 cassette adapter. However, I still needed to connect it to the phone. This is where things get tricky. I needed an adapter to go from the 2.5mm stereo/mic jack to a common 3.5mm (1/8") stereo jack. Sprint didn't carry them at the time, but luckily I was able to pick one up from the local Cingular store.

Adapter in hand, I connected the phone to the car, typed the Groove Salad url into my media player, and blammo, I had high-quality, untethered, Internet radio right in my car! The quality was even better than most XM Radio channels and I didn't have to pay an extra subscription. Listening to streaming radio drained the phone's battery, but a $30 car charger solved that problem. Very nice!

Not bad for May 2006. However, looking at my feature list for the Ideal Internet Car Radio, a couple problems remained:

  • EVDO wasn't yet deployed wide enough for reliable listening over long distances.
  • The phone was over $99.
  • Available free content was pretty limited.
  • Tuning into a radio station was pretty painful. (send yourself an SMS from the PC, or manually type in the URL. How do I text in a 'slash' again...?)

Fast forward to Summer 2007. Thanks to Sprint, EVDO now covers all major population areas and major transportation corridors. Thanks to Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and Sanyo, aacPlus 3GPP-enabled phones are available for much lower prices. Thanks to Tuner2, there is a single point of tuning for high-quality Internet radio on the mobile phone. The content list isn't huge, but it is growing. And in the next couple of months it will grow like crazy once stations catch on to the untapped audience. Using Tuner2 mobile on my A920, today I drive around Southern California enjoying Internet radio, free and clear.

Things are looking good, but all is not sun and roses. In the next posts I will share some specifics about my LA driving tests, a long-distance drive through farm country, share a longer list of compatible phones, and talk about some issues you may encounter connecting the phones to your car.

-fred jackson