By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
XM Satellite Radio is expanding its selection of Xpress-series plug-and-play (PnP) tuners with two new models that include what the company is hailing as the industry's first split-screen tuner that displays information simultaneously from six channels.
The $129.99-suggested XpressR and $69.99-suggested XpressEZ will join the current Express, which retails for $79 to $89, said Dan Murphy, XM's retail aftermarket distribution executive VP. They ship through Audiovox beginning this month.
The new devices "refresh the plug-and-play line with a new look and feel" that's more compact and sleeker, he said. The use of a common series name "simplifies the purchase decision by making it easier to understand the differences among different products," he added. In line with that, XM is discontinuing its Sportscaster model, which at a suggested $59.99 was XM's lowest priced PnP tuner.
Delphi is the only other PnP tuner brand available for XM. Delphi offers the RoadyXT and SKYFi3 and is discontinuing the SKYFi2, Murphy noted.
Among the new PnP tuners, the XpressR features a split-screen mode that shows the number of the channel that the consumer is playing along with channel name, artist name and song title. On the right, consumers view information about five other channels that XM is broadcasting. The consumer will see the channel numbers of each channel plus one of the following for each channel: channel name, artist playing or song title.
The ExpressR also features a 30-minute memory buffer for pausing and replaying live programming. In a PnP unit, that capability appears only in Delphi's SKYFi2, which is being phased out.
The XpressEZ will bring a traditional tuning dial previously found only in higher priced XM PnP units, Murphy said. It features three-line display to view channel, artist and song title. It stores up to 10 channels into favorites.
All three feature XM's universal connector for use with XM's home docking kit and universal-connector boomboxes, currently available from Belkin and soon from Audiovox, Murphy said.
All Xpress models also feature XM's new SureConnect wired-FM-modulator capability, which lets motorists add XM to their car stereo systems without paying for a professional install. The DIY solution converts the satellite signal to an FM signal, which is sent over a thin wire that clips onto a car's exterior whip antenna or onto an in-glass antenna. Wired FM modulation was XM's response to the FCC crackdown last year on wireless FM transmitters that exceeded power-output caps.
SureConnect kits have been bundled inside PnP tuner packaging since last September, but in July, XM will eliminate the kits from the packaging to make them available separately as a $19.99-suggested accessory, Murphy said. Less than 40 percent of consumers who bought a PnP tuner with bundled SureConnect car kit used the kit, he explained. The remainder used wired FM modulators professionally installed, while others connected the tuners to a head unit's audio inputs, and other used a cassette adapter.
In other product developments, Samsung discontinued its two portable headphone-type XM stereos: the Helix with embedded XM tuner and the Nexus MP3/satellite hybrid, which stores compressed-music files and time-shifted XM programming for on-the-go playback. It docked with a home docking station with removable Minituner module. Pioneer's Inno headphone-type stereo continues to be available through the holidays, Murphy said.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.