By Harry McCracken | Monday, July 6, 2009 at 6:54 pm
Last week, I was thinking about replacing the XM satellite receiver in my car with my iPhone 3GS. Now the deed is done: I called XM this afternoon and canceled my service, more than five years after I first became an XM fan. From now on, nearly all the audio I listen to in my car will be piped from my phone. (I do listen to local NPR stations, and may continue to do so via Plain Old FM Radio at least part of the time.)
I enjoyed XM enough over the years that I’m not leaving as an unhappy camper, even though the last couple of years were pretty dang rocky–the service kept raising prices (it now charges $18 a month for what was once $10) and dropping stuff I liked to listen to (Harry Shearer, all of MSNBC). But I don’t want to fiddle with two separate devices in my car, and when I had to make a decision, I opted for the iPhone. It gives me tens of thousands of radio stations for the cost of my AT&T data plan. Plus customizable “radio” from Last.fm, Pandora, and Slacker. Plus a bevy of podcasts. Plus audio books. Plus all my own music. Given all that, I’m willing to live with the fact that it’s not as convenient a car radio as my XM Xpress receiver was. Did I mention it also does GPS navigation and lets me make phone calls?
Some folks have reported having trouble canceling satellite radio or being offered cheap or free service as an enticement to keep the account. I had to wait a half hour on hold to speak to a real person, who offered me a $77-a-year deal if I’d reconsider–but one that would only kick in when my current subscription ended next March, and would then extend to March, 2011.
In other words, even though I told him I was canceling because XM was too expensive, he suggested paying the same rate for eight more months, then continuing to pay for another year beyond that. I declined the offer; he canceled my service.
What XM didn’t offer me was the one thing that might have kept me around: An iPhone-only subscription at a competitive price. (The $12.95 Sirius XM wants for online listening is too much given that it’s the same as the base rate for satellite listening, for a lineup that lacks much of the service’s signature programming and has dozens fewer channels.) I’ll bet I’m not the only XM defector who might have stuck around for a decent iPhone plan…and if it ever offers one I might be back. But for now, I’m ex-XM.
I’ll let you know how my iPhone-as-a-car-radio experiment goes. I already know I like the three customized 1960s stations I’ve created with Slacker a lot more than XM’s Sixties on 6…