Tech Talk: The fast lane of car radio

Radioplayer's in-car adapter is controlled from your phone

Radioplayer's in-car adapter is controlled from your phone

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YOU MAY have installed a DAB digital radio in your kitchen years ago, but it’s a safe bet that the one in your car still receives good old FM. Likewise, the receiver built into your phone. And the one in your hi-fi system.

This isn’t problem to you, because FM radio works perfectly well, and often better than DAB. But it’s a huge issue to the radio industry, for which transmitting on both platforms is an expense it could do without. Consequently, it would like to migrate us all to digital.

Car radios in particular have proved an obstacle to this, because the motor industry shows little interest in adopting a system for which there’s no international standard. So the radio stations have taken matters into their own hands.

Radioplayer, an online service run jointly by the BBC and the commercial sector, has designed an in-car adapter which sits beneath your dashboard and scans every available platform – analogue, DAB and the internet – to deliver a seamless listening experience, wherever you are. You can hear not just Radio 2 but also web-only stations and on-demand programmes.

You control it with your phone, with which it communicates wirelessly via Bluetooth. An app lets you select a radio station or other source, and the sound comes through your regular car speakers, via the Aux In socket on your existing radio.

It has a few other tricks up its sleeve, too: if a text message arrives while you’re driving, it will read it aloud. And it will give you an audio summary of current traffic conditions.

You can’t buy it just yet, but the aim is to make it available for around £100, fitted.

Yet it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist, because regular FM radio covers more or less the entire country, and modern receivers do a perfectly good job of re-tuning themselves to the nearest available transmitter. As for the rest of the functionality, your existing smartphone already has it – and it can be paired to any Bluetooth car stereo. Radioplayer itself has a free Apple, Android and Windows app with a Car Mode so you can use it relatively hands-free. And third-party apps like DriveSafe.ly and Text ’n’ Drive can read your text messages to you.

So, by all means take a look at Radioplayer’s in-car adapter when it arrives at your local Halfords – but first, check out the technology you already have.

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