LG today announced the pricing and date of availability for its first Digital Radio enabled Smartphone the LG Stylus DAB+ – coming to Australia from May the 2nd for $449.

That’s a great price for a smartphone and Digital Radio sure is a unique feature – but will it sell phones?

LG and the Commercial Radio industry body are keen to point out in their announcement that “Unlike music streaming and other apps that can use hefty amounts of data, the LG Stylus DAB+ lets users listen to digital quality radio broadcasts for free through a tuner in the smartphone”

Which means basically lets all listen to our favourite radio stations the old-fashioned way – for free!  No data worries, no data cap blow outs and excess charges.

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Using the power of all the commercial stations in the metro areas this phone will get some serious air-time too – you’ll hear the same commercials on all stations promoting the device and driving people to a listener giveaway where there are 250 phones to win.  This will generate web traffic from people keen to win a free smartphone, and that will prove a very important message that Radio has long pushed – Radio ads are engaging and do drive change and action.

But will it drive sales?

The boss of the industry body – Commercial Radio Australia – Joan Warner said of the launch; “Australians love radio, with 95% of the population tuning in each week. Now with the LG Stylus DAB+, radio stations will be able to deliver an even richer radio experience for listeners through the broadcast of visual content such as pictures and text about the track now playing, breaking news and web links.”

”Commercial Radio Australia has developed a tailored interface for the smartphone, which allows listeners to enjoy digital radio alongside related internet content. Users will be able to see station logos and branded landing pages, and click on links to more information, events, offers and radio social media channels,” added Warner.

Now as I said when this phone was announced – I’ve been the biggest Digital Radio supporter in this country – but – and it’s an important but – we have to be realistic here.

Look at those features:

  • radio stations will be able to deliver an even richer radio experience for listeners through the broadcast of visual content such as pictures and text about the track now playing, breaking news and web links

Ahh, yep, all of which they can also do through their existing apps – all that and more.

Yes, streaming radio stations via your phone using TuneIn Radio, iHeart Radio or any other radio station app uses data.  But we don’t actually have a problem with radio killing people’s download caps.  Netflix – yes, Radio – no.

Radio uses much less bandwidth than video, and people simply aren’t streaming it in big enough numbers to need to have data concerns.

In fact, if we’re honest here, the people who ARE streaming lots of radio on their phones do NOT live in metro areas.  I’ve had callers from the Central Coast, South Coast or interstate where they’ve moved and can no longer get their favourite Sydney Radio.  They’re streaming to overcome that, and they need to be educated about data warnings.

But a DAB enabled smartphone won’t help them.  Digital Radio is only available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth plus on trials in Canberra and Darwin.

Commercial Radio Australia suggest a regional DAB+ roll-out will commence in 2017.  I doubt that.  There’s little likelihood the Federal Government will have an appetite to fund new transmitters across the country in a time when they are spending billions on internet infrastructure.

Good luck to LG with this phone.  It will sell, but it won’t sell in big enough numbers to put a blip on the radar.

The first car to have a DAB+ Radio in Australia was a Toyota Camry. I remember it being at a Radio Industry Outside Broadcast, this was a big deal.  It has led to hundreds of other models being produced with DAB radios.  Not because of demand though.  But because in Europe where much smaller countries are moving to convert fully to Digital Radio – they had a mandate on all Cars produced there having to be DAB+ enabled. That helped.  A lot.

There is no such driving force for Smartphones.  None.

The LG Stylus DAB+ will be available May 2 for RRP $449 from Optus stores, Big W, All Phones, and selected Harvey Norman and Good Guys Stores. It will also be available 5th of May from Virgin Mobile Stores.