Friday, December 21, 2012

She wants a new car; he's afraid of the fancy new radio

I'm not comfortable with any radio more complex than a few knobs and buttons.
Jimmy Baikovicius Photo
My wife wants a new car for Christmas. She isn't getting it. Why? Because I am afraid I won't know how to make the radio work. It's true: except for a couple of knobs and a few preset buttons, I am hopeless.

My friend, noted author Douglas Kalajian, explained what I'm up against this way:

"About radios: Anything you buy today will be complicated and most likely obsolete in two years. The technology and buyer preferences are changing very, very quickly.

"They're not even called radios any more because hardly anyone uses the traditional broadcast bands. The radio part is wrapped into what's called the infotainment system.

"The big draw right now is wireless integration for smart phones — not just Bluetooth for calls but for streaming audio. And that's not just digital music stored in the phone but services like Pandora that let you 'tune in' by phone to customized play lists that mimic radio stations.

"Satellite radio may be endangered by this, except that it now offers 'real time' traffic info. But GM may be delivering that information by OnStar now — I'm not sure.

"CD players have pretty much disappeared, too, gone the way of the cassette tape. Who needs a CD when you have the world's music library at your fingertips?

"These systems are so smart that some of them will even receive your text messages and read them to you.

"Most also let you stream the navigation voice from your phone, which makes factory nav systems pretty much a thing of yesterday unless you love the big-screen map.

"Even that can be replaced with an iPad or similar tablet.

"All this is essential for nearly every buyer today, except you. No kidding, people actually use this stuff. I'd love to have a set-up like the one in the Malibu I rented. Crappy car, great infotainment system.

"All of this leaves you, Mr. AM radio, without so much as a preset button. Instead, you'll likely get a haptic touch screen that anyone else would find intuitive.

"You'll probably put your hand through it.

"You could well become the first prospective buyer this century to ask if they still offer the 'radio delete' option.

"It's worth a try!"

Copyright 2012 by Douglas Kalajian, reprinted with permission. Kalajian is the author of "Snow Blind," the true story of a crusading defense attorney caught up in Florida's crazy cocaine cowboy era.

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