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Internet Radio In The Car: Still A Way To Go

More people are streaming online music into the car by connecting their smart phone to a car audio system, but among people who do so, online radio isn’t their main source of in-car audio entertainment.

In fact, online radio ranked last when consumers were asked what audio source they listen to most in the car. AM/FM radio was tops, followed by MP3 players, CD players, satellite radio, and online radio, in that order.

That’s according to a national consumer survey by Edison Research.

Why the connectivity disconnect?

It’s not simple to connect cellphones to many factory audio systems, which account for the majority of car audio systems on the road. Older radios lack analog auxiliary inputs. The USB inputs of many factory systems don’t yet recognize Android phones, although that has been changing. Ever try to make a Bluetooth connection to a factory system? Get out the manual, and then if your mate wants to stream from her phone, get out the manual again because you have to switch users. And oh, if you have multiple cars in the household, the steps for pairing a phone via Bluetooth are different for each vehicle.

Why did satellite radio come out ahead of Internet radio when consumers were asked to name the source they listen to the most? Because you can access satellite-radio content as easily as you can access AM/FM radio stations.

Streaming internet sources into the car will get easier as consumers junk their older vehicles and get cars with some level of smartphone connectivity. By then, the more sophisticated connectivity methods with higher audio quality should be easier to use.

Perhaps the best way to encourage consumers to connect in the car to Internet radio is to build cellular and Internet-radio apps right into the dash to make Internet radio as easy to use as satellite radio, AM/FM, and CD.

That, too, is already underway.