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SiriusXM for the Android

With Android overtaking iPhone in overall sales of smartphones, and selling second only to the Blackberry, it was only a matter of time until SiriusXM listened to the pleas of their customers and release a streaming app for the Droid, Nexus One, Incredible, et al. This past Friday, the people got what they wanted, and Android owners can now download the SiriusXM app for their phones.

It was worth noting that the SiriusXM app does not appear in the Android Marketplace at this time and needs to be downloaded from the SiriusXM website directly at this link. There, you will be able to download directly if you browse from your phone or will be asked for your email address to receive a download link. I chose to browse from my phone to simplify the process. Once downloaded, I tapped the file and it installed with the Android Installer. Not as simple a process as downloading with the Marketplace, but not overly complex.

Like the iPhone SiriusXM app, the Android application requires an XM Premium Online or Sirius Premium Online account, but if you do not have a subscription, they are offerring a free 7 day subscription to try it out.  The app promises “over 120 channels” for your listening pleasure. These channels include most of the music and talk channels, but does not include licensed content, like Major League Baseball, National Football League or any of the other channels they do not have the rights to stream online.

The first problem I had after installing the SiriusXM app was I couldn’t find it in my app slider.  Since the app is called “SiriusXM Online,” I went down to the letter S and it wasn’t there. Upon further inspection, it was under O for Online. The developers put the “SiriusXM” into the icon and “Online” as the app name. Aesthetically it works, but from a usability standpoint, it makes no sense.

Once the app is found, you can jump to a particular category and find the kind of music you like or peruse the individual channel listings. When looking at the different channels, you can see what is playing on the individual channels and select the music that way.  Holding down on a channel brings up a menu allowing you to add that channel to your favorites or get more info about that channel.

The sound quality is good for music being streamed over 3G.  The music sounded a bit tinny over the Droid’s built in speaker, but no one should ever have high expectations for a device’s cheap built-in speaker. With headphones, music has a decent stereo sound to it that isn’t up to the quality of a cd or a high quality file stored on the device, but sounds quite good. For listening to talk shows like Ron and Fez, where sound quality isn’t as important to the listening experience, it is perfect for listening on the go.

One problem I have with the Android app, as well as the iPhone app, is the delay in the listening experience.  When listening to talk programs on XM, I see people comment online about something that was said on the show that I don’t hear for a couple minutes.  When talk shows are meant to be interactive, with people calling in and being part of the show, people listening via these portable apps are on an even greater delay and may not be able to add to the show in a timely manner.

One other issue is the appearance of the SiriusXM app in the notifications area of the phone. Many apps are able to put their notifications in a separate section above the area where the user has information about notifications from apps, like the Navigator or music apps, but SiriusXM puts theirs down where the SMS and e-mail notifications are, which gets removed if you click the Clear button to remove the other notifications from that area, which could lead to increased data usage and decreased battery availability.

The battery drain from the SiriusXM app itself down not seem to be that bad.  I have listened to the app streaming a single channel for over an hour with a majority of my battery life still intact.  Turning off the screen while listening does help increase battery life while listening, but it’s good to know that I can listen to music for a period of time and still be able to make phone calls later.

One minor thing that annoys me is when I receive notifications for text messages or e-mail, the music drops out while the notification sound plays. The iPhone app is able to play its notification tone with the SiriusXM app, so why can’t the Droid version?

Overall, the SiriusXM app is a good way to listen to SiriusXM on the go, if you have an account. If you are not already a SiriusXM subscriber, there are other apps I would recommend over SiriusXM, like Pandora, Last.FM and NPR, depending on your listening preferences.

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