Sirius unveils iPhone App: reviews not so good (updated)

June 18, 2009

Sirius XM Radio has launched its long-awaited App for the iPhone to mixed reviews. That’s not surprising, really, since the legion of Sirius subscribers has never been sheepish about the pay radio service.

Many users like it, so they can get unique programming in a slick iPhone App. Now they can take Martha Stewart Radio, Road Dog Trucking and the Praise Channel with them anywhere. But you can’t listen to exclusive stuff like Howard Stern’s programming, or Major League Baseball games or the Nascar channel. Ouch.

It’s true that only a handful of channels are excluded (for rights reasons) versus the 120 channels one can listen to. But many Sirius XM subscribers are drawn to the service primarily for Stern, Baseball and the NFL, and they are not pleased. Of 421 user reviews on the iTunes App Store, 261 rate it 1 (out-of-5) stars, and its average is 2 stars. By contrast, online radio app Pandora scores an average 3.5 stars (from a much larger survey sample).

For every Sirius App comment that sounds like this from “Garfinkel”:

The app itself works pretty well. It’s been streaming without a glitch…” (3 Stars)

…there are three that read this way from “MXIKN”:

App shows great promise. Glad I didn’t renew my subscription cause there is no HOWARD. What are they thinking? I’m willing to renew if I can get Howard Stern. Many others will agree with me. Give us what we want. (1 Star)

Still others balked because the “free” App requires a Sirius subscription PLUS, in some cases, an additional $3 monthly fee for its online package.

Business insider’s Dan Frommer said the App may find an audience, but…

…we have a hard time seeing the app driving significant new subscribership to Sirius, as there’s simply too many other ways to listen to music on the iPhone already. (Which don’t cost $13/month.)

I would tell you how I feel about it, but the Sirius XM Radio App for the iPhone and iPod Touch does not run on 1st generation Touches — like the one I own.

UPDATE: I went back to the App store hours later and it downloaded easily on my first gen Touch. (earlier there was an error message that stopped the download.) Can’t give a full review yet, but as first impressions go, “Top Billin'” by Audio Two on the “Backspin” station is golden.


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Don’t buy it. It’s lame and restricted. Buy Pocket Tunes Radio from the App Store and stream ALL of Sirius XM’s channels!

Posted by thebasa | Report as abusive

From the FAQs on the website: SIRIUS XM streams all channels for which it has “mobile rights” So it looks like the guy making $100M/year wants more $$$ to go to mobile: Dumb move Howard – iPhone could be a big audience for you…

Posted by FACTS in the FAQs | Report as abusive

Not sure why you can’t get it on your 1st gen ipod touch – I have it on mine right now: sounds great!

Posted by FIRST GEN WORKS | Report as abusive

Good call First Gen Works. I tried again an the download worked.

Posted by Franklin Paul | Report as abusive

“mobile rights”…. every day I listen to Stern in my “car”, then I can log in on my “laptop”. A friend of mine even listens to Stern on his “portable receiver”.

It seems like this is the FIRST situation where this content is being restricted since this early days of internet streaming. Are we to supposed to think that the iPhone was what they were thinking of when they drew up the contracts. I’ve even heard Howard express hope on air that an iPhone app would be made.

I think I’m missing something.

Posted by dave | Report as abusive

An equation:

Sirius app – (No Howard+Sports) + $3.00 Extra a month = I am going to cancel my subscription.

Posted by P | Report as abusive

One thing the articles aren’t mentioning…the audio quality on this app is not that good either. They are definitely downsampling compared to their regular premium streaming service. The sound is NOT CD quality. The PocketTune app sounds much better and the other free music apps all have better sound quality. Combined with lack of premium CONTENT. This will not be a game changer for Sirius…far from it.

Posted by Disappointed | Report as abusive

Dear Sirius,

It is no wonder your stock price is in the gutter…

You finally give iPhone users a SiriusXM App and don’t include all of your content? How do you not include either companies biggest star Howard Stern?

What Sirius has failed to realized is that Stern is that thing that makes them special. There are a ton of already free music apps out there like Pandora, which is unreal.

Why would anyone pay a monthly charge for something they can already get free?

This app will crash and burn without Stern and other content they left out.

PS. To get Sirius internet radio WITH Stern, just get the pocket tunes App. It’s 10 bucks to download, but there is no monthly fee and there are limitless possibilities!

Posted by Kade | Report as abusive

From a lawyer who actually knows about rights negotiations:

The other apps (when they work on cellular networks) are ILLEGAL if they play Howard. ”Mobile Rights” refer specifically to streaming on cellular networks. Trust me, I know about rights negotiations, and there are essentially three types for SIRIUS XM: Satellite, Online, & Mobile. Back when Howard signed on (if I remember correctly) there were no Cell Phone products for SXM so apparently they didn’t include those rights.

Actually, along those lines: I’m surprised that SXM hasn’t sued those other apps yet for what is called ”UNJUST ENRICHMENT”. That is when another company makes money off of another’s protected brand/content/product. But that is a completely separate issue.

Looks like Howard wanted more $$$ for mobile rights than would be reasonable for SXM so they didn’t include him. And judging from the investor screenshot released earlier, it looked like they fully intended on having him in the app. After all, his channel was in the screenshot. Think about it, his two channels are the only online channels that are missing from the application! I highly doubt that this was an arbitrary corporate choice. It just wouldn’t make sense to intentionally leave him out if they had the rights.

Posted by Just Because It Exists Doesn’t Mean It’s LEGAL | Report as abusive

Stern is not required for me to live. The only show that I miss by not having the Stern channels is Ferrall. Overall this is a great application and love it. There is more to Sirius XM than Stern, a lot more exclusive content than anywhere else.

Posted by MudDude | Report as abusive

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