Cellphones as threat to radio?

by Tod Maffin

I had the opportunity the other day to play with LG's Fusic cell phone (fronted by Bell) which, at first glance, appears to be your average cameraphone. The Fusic, though, comes with a FM transmitter -- LG claims it's the first phone with an FM transmitter. A nice touch, but a killer app when it's paired with the on-board EVDO high-speed data, which lets you download songs right from the phone, though you're limited to a selection of songs from Bell's library.

     So far, consumer reaction to the phone has been generally positive. It costs between $99 and $349 from Bell Mobility, depending on how long a contract you want to take with it.

     This isn't the first product, though, to try to push phones as transmitters. A couple of years ago, Sony Ericsson launched its Walkman-branded transmitter. Attach it to the bottom of a Sony Ericsson phone and it'll send your music to the closest FM radio.

     And two months ago, Samsung's BlackJack surprised the market with a "smart device" ( can't anyone just say phone any more?) which can pull down audio from a selection of 25 XM Satellite Radio channels. It can, of course, also play MP3 files.

     All of this, of course, is keeping radio executives awake at night. The devices we carry in our pockets continue to offer an increasingly convenient way to play on-demand music and podcasts. Enter streaming radio station web sites -- remember those from the web 1.0 days? They're still around, and my bet is 2007 will be a banner year for them. Devices like new Apple's iPhone with built-in wifi will make listening to these stations dead-easy. And with thousands of channels of streaming radio -- now, with the ability to wirelessly transmit it to your car radio -- is terrestrial radio's days numbered?