back to article LG builds a DAB+ digital radio radio into a smartmobe

Here's an oddity: LG has launched a smartphone with a built-in DAB+ broadcast digital radio. LG Stylus DAB+ is a 5.7-inch, 1280 x 720, Android (Marshmallow) machine with a quad-core CPU humming along at 1.2GHz. Up front you'll find an eight-megapixel camera and out back there's a 13-megapixel effort. Inside is 16GB of storage …

  1. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

    FM is better.

    Even AM can be better.

    DAB is too power hungry, bit rate is too low (to save money), coverage is too poor.

    A DTT tuner would be more use!

    Some phones have had great easy to use FM radio for ages. Ergonomics for Digital Radio is inherently poor too. DAB is a failed format. DRM on Shortwave, MW and LW has failed to get traction.

    DAB and Digital Broadcast, esp. using SFN and because of pressure to save money on Mux costs, inherently benefits national stations over local and reduction of bit rate to less than FM quality. DAB+ isn't used for more quality either, just to halve the bit rate at similar quality (too poor) to reduce costs.

    The BBC, Ofcom, RTE and Comreg will drool over this. It's bad for the consumer.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

      The only radio station I listen to in Germany (Deutschlandfunk) has terrible reception on FM. I had to get a DAB radio in order to be able to listen to it.

      DAB does use more power than FM but it still uses a lot less than any form of streaming. It handles frequency changes when travelling much better than FM and can do without an external antenna.

      So, on the whole: well done LG.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

        Not really cutting edge smartphone stuff though. Nokia had a DAB headset in 2011 that you could plug into any Symbian 3 phone.

        For all our complaints about Nokia they did seem to push the rest of the industry forward.

        Get off my lawn, etc...

        1. johnfbw

          Re: DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

          @Dan 55 There was a Virgin mobile phone the Lobster 700TV which had DAB in 2007. Shame it was a crap phone which barely made it out the box

          1. Fuzz

            Re: DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

            The lobster not only had DAB radio but some form of TV transmitted over DAB. The phone wasn't too bad, it was a standard HTC windows smartphone. Theoretically capable of almost anything but lacked the power or the software to actually do anything beyond email.

            The DAB radio was far too power hungry for a little phone. I remember I took mine to the cricket so that I could listen to the commentary on sports extra. I took 3 batteries and didn't make it through the days play.

      2. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

        DAB does use more power than FM but it still uses a lot less than any form of streaming.

        So, how much more power does streaming use?

        DAB has its corner cases, but so did DVB-H. Since DAB in general has no perceptual benefits over FM for the end users it's never going to achieve the "Year of the DAB desktop" goal. Signal reception might be better for some and that's really it.

        BTW, I'm not in Germany but streaming your Deutschlandfunk was easy both with my phone and PC.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

          The only advantage of DAB (as currently implemented in the UK) over FM is the extra stations it offers. Now and Next can be done on RDS same with traffic progs (not forgetting EON for that on the BBC). The sound quality on DAB is bad compared to FM and the bit rate for stations is embarrassing and a lot are in mono anyway to save costs. But then given the majority of the radios are only single speaker. Yes with good reception on DAB you get less interference and hiss but if that drops below a certain threshold it's painful to listen to (the oft quoted bubbling mud). The only reason that DAB has had the improvements in terms of listening/ownership is because it is now actually rather hard to buy an analogue (FM+MW) radio with digital tuning. Nip down your local Currys, John Lewis or other retailer and see how many they now stock. Due to the extra processing power required above that needed for FM to decode the signal DAB will always need more power and I'll not be using DAB on my next phone even if it's an option.

          I have a Sony SW100 that is still going strong which offers FM/LW/MW/SW (inc SSB) from something not much bigger than an audio cassette box on two AA batteries. I won't be swapping that for DAB anytime soon. I speak as someone who used to work in the media and in DAB at one point

          1. Pat Att

            Re: DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

            To me, it seems the extra choice of radio stations from DAB is a myth. My radio (located in a small city, which should be in a good coverage zone) suggest I can get lots of stations, but when I try to listen to them, it suddenly changes its mind and declares them unavailable. I can get more from FM.

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

      Mage: "DAB is too power hungry..."

      About a year ago, somebody introduced a new chipset to receive DAB without the usual battery draining power consumption. Perhaps this is the first retail product built around it.

      If so, that's the bigger news that's been glossed over here.

      DAB power consumption is like 'range anxiety' in e-cars. It's the issue.

    3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

      FM is better. Even AM can be better.

      Perhaps. One reason I use DAB at home is because I got sick of fiddling with the tuning on (medium-quality) FM portables. Typically, you'd get the thing perfectly tuned, and it would stay that way as long as you were standing right next to it. Cross the room, and everything turns to noise. It's possibly because my house has thick walls.

      With DAB, it's all or nothing, and I've had no signal loss anywhere in the house.

  2. Christian Berger Silver badge

    DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

    I mean audio takes rather little data, so how about building a radio that just records everything that's on? Such a radio would use the DAB EPG and Radiotext information to make the programme available to you just like an audio on demand service would do...

    ... however there would be one crucial difference and that's licensing. You would have the comfort of a download service, but the station would only have to pay the cost of broadcasting. So eventually you'd build a library of songs and other programmes on your device, completely legally and at a tiny fraction of what CDs or official downloads cost.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

      I mean audio takes rather little data, so how about building a radio that just records everything that's on?

      Well, that's basically up to the software. I think there are plenty of DAB receivers that do allow the stream to be recorded but the UI quickly becomes the problem.

    2. censored

      Re: DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

      This is where the promise of DAB never materialised.

      I was in early commercial radio demonstrations that showed off the various amazing features. None of which came to market. The first was recording and pausing. They sold it as "imagine you're in the car, listening to something good, then arrive at your destination. Just hit record.". Great! Except hardly any cars have a basic DAB, let alone a recorder.

      The also touted using an EPG like Sky+ et al to record shows. There had concepts of radios with colour screens giving a "tell me more" service, with interactivity and information about the song or artist, ability to buy tickets, enter competitions and everything else.

      Then the internet became ubiquitous.

      But remember the Pure Bug radio? It was, to my knowledge, the only one that came close to the promises with ability to record. I don't know why.

      1. dotdavid

        Re: DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

        "But remember the Pure Bug radio? It was, to my knowledge, the only one that came close to the promises with ability to record. I don't know why."

        I'm guessing record company execs decided that radio taping would kill music just like home taping did.

        1. David Paul Morgan
          Thumb Up

          Re: DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

          I love DAB for the extra stations.

          Yes, I'm disappointed that the PVR functions have not become widely available.

          The DAB stations like BBC 6 Music and Planet Rock have actually encouraged me to buy more music - and on vinyl, no less.

          I have a Pure portable DAB which I use when out and about, rather than use data.

          I think this LG proposal is quite interesting. I've certainly used the built-in FM radios on my HTC and Sony handsets.

          Most useful is the 'listen again' functionality in the BBC Radio and individual stations 'apps' for the shows you've missed. sort of makes live recording redundant...

      2. Timbo

        Re: DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

        "But remember the Pure Bug radio? It was, to my knowledge, the only one that came close to the promises with ability to record. I don't know why."

        Not quite - PURE also made the Evoke-3 which, like the Bug, paused or recorded live radio DAB (or it would allow "time-shifting", via it's built in timer) to an SD card.

        Evoke-3 had a lot going for it - big display, mains/battery operation, DAB/FM operation, stereo speakers with good audio, plus aux input and Toslink output....plus it didn't look like a ugly plastic lump. PS The Bug was designed by one Wayne Hemmingway :(

        I doubt record execs would have an issue with recordings made off DAB, given the low data rates and in some cases, mono output of some stations....so, a 64kb or 80kb mono MP2 recording of the latest and greatest "popular" record is hardly going to cause issues, when so much is available on Youtube, which given the right piece of software on your PC can easily be downloaded onto PC.

      3. Alan Edwards

        Re: DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

        The Pure Highway (add-on car DAB) can do recording. Comes in handy, you can pause the DAB when the FM radio has a traffic announcement. Big problem with it is limited memory - it can only do about 15 minutes. A Micro-SD slot would fix that, it could probably record days worth on one of the cards I have laying around.

        There was a Blaupunkt or Siemens or something that would record traffic announcements while it was off and replay them when you turned it back on. I'm not sure that ever made it into production.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

          "There was a Blaupunkt or Siemens or something that would record traffic announcements while it was off and replay them when you turned it back on. I'm not sure that ever made it into production."

          The FM radio in my old Skoda Octavia did that. Very handy in my job it was too.

      4. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

        I was at the launch of the Pure Bug and spoke to some of the Pure guys who were there promoting it. I said it looked a bit too weird for me and I hoped they weren't "betting the farm on it". The silence that followed spoke volumes. There were other radios that allowed you to record the problem was they were sh!t in terms of what they actually did. For example I had a Roberts (that's now gathering dust in the attic that had a record function. It even did timer recordings but you could schedule only one thing to record and that was it. You could set it to record that same thing daily or weekly but just the one thing. It sucked and I never used it much as a result. Now I can listen via the iPlayer to BBC stuff I've missed or my satellite receiver can record radio (and tv) programmes from whichever satellite it's pointing at.

        Ultimately until fairly recently the cost of the basic DAB receiver was too high to have all these extra bells and whistles included in them (colour screens, extra info etc.) and now you can get all that from a smart phone. You could actually send a code in the FM radio text data that the radio app on your phone would recognise and display extra info/a link to purchase the MP3 etc.

      5. This post has been deleted by its author

      6. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

        Great! Except hardly any cars have a basic DAB, let alone a recorder.

        I still have old Blaupunkt Woodstock head unit somewhere in the garage, and it recorded quite nicely onto SD card. Granted can't say I would've come across many (any to be honest) other headunits that do recording off DAB broadcast.

    3. Paul

      Re: DAB would have some great potential if you get propper equipment

      there's an interesting related project:

      https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/radio-4-matic/

      grab and time slice the audio stream from the radio for time shifted playback

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Not everyeone has Spotify

    Shouldn't that be...

    Not everyone WANTS Spotify or apple musak or any other music streaming services

    Luddites of the world Unite!

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Not everyeone has Spotify

      I mainly listen to the news on the radio.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Pirate

      Re: Not everyeone has Spotify

      Luddite here. (Locally stored) mp3s forever!

      640 GB of music ought to be enough for anyone.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Not everyeone has Spotify

        "(Locally stored) mp3s forever!"

        Butbutbut... how then will the latest Justin Bieber has to offer reach you?!?

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: Not everyeone has Spotify

          "how then will the latest Justin Bieber has to offer reach you"

          Never a better justification for air gapping I have seen, also known to prevent U2.

      2. Alan Edwards

        Re: Not everyeone has Spotify

        To be honest, 64Gb is enough for me. I bought a 64Gb USB drive for the car and put the kind of stuff I like to listen to in the car on it - it's still only just over half full.

        Everything I've got is only about 200Gb.

    3. tblacklock1972

      Re: Not everyeone has Spotify

      And bad spellers of the world untie!

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Not everyeone has Spotify

        It is Monday morning and my typing brain had not fully engaged (if it ever does these days)

        That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. At least it isn't 'text speak'.

  4. werdsmith Silver badge

    Bad for the Consumer

    Streaming services like spotify are bad for this consumer, because what they effectively are doing is charging me to deliver music that I already have a right to because I have paid for it already in some other form. 99% of the music I'm ever going to like and want to listen to has already been recorded and I have a copy of most of it. I don't really want to pay for it again.

    And whilst broadcast tech is not perfect, it's mature and streaming as a delivery system is not either, it's got a long way to go. The variation on format on broadcast (meaning not just music) I find an easier arrangement than using podcast etc.

    I've got DAB in the car now, and it's a big step forward over FM. I'm not concerned about audio quality because there are so many other noise sources in a vehicle that there is no way to listen critically. When DAB does drop out (very rare now) then FM will almost-seamlessly kick in - but then will also be suffering for signal coverage so is scratchy, but not completely seamless because many DAB stations just aren't on FM.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Bad for the Consumer

      >When DAB does drop out (very rare now) then FM will almost-seamlessly kick in -

      For me, the only real reason to have DAB is to listen to a station that is not available on FM - i.e Radio 6 Music. It is also a good station for reminding me that I do not already own all teh music I would wish to, and that there is still so much good stuff out there (some times I can forget that).

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not a DAB champion: - my DAB receiver / FM transmitter is in a box somewhere, because DAB reception near me is too patchy, because I accidentally set fire to my van's 12v ('fag lighter') socket, because I often just stream spoken-word podcasts when driving, and because the SD cards in my car stereo hold plenty of music.

      FM - low power, reliable. Long may it live. Let's have DAB by all means, but government noises about turning off FM are worrying.

    2. David Paul Morgan
      Go

      Re: Bad for the Consumer

      ... but if you use the Amazon music player, then anything you buy as CD becomes available in your prime cloud library?

      1. Alan Edwards

        Re: Bad for the Consumer

        It does, but you can't download it, you have to stream it.

        So you still have to rip the CD to MP3 to avoid chewing through mobile data to play it on your phone.

        1. David Nash Silver badge

          Re: Bad for the Consumer

          "you can't download it, you have to stream it."

          Not true - at least in many cases the "autorip" feature allows you to download the CD you have bought well in advance of it dropping through the letterbox.

          My bugbear with Amazon is Prime Music's lack of material compared to Spotify. I'd rather own CDs actually but these services are good for trying things out and discovering new artists.

  5. thomas k

    1280 x 720 on a 5.7" screen?

    A-hahahahahahahaha.

    1. dotdavid

      Re: 1280 x 720 on a 5.7" screen?

      You find the strangest things funny.

  6. Dr_N Silver badge

    Radio iPlayer

    I use the BBC Radio iPlayer all the time in the car and it never makes a dent in my 20Gbyte monthly allowance. Works anywhere in the world too.

    1. ZSn

      vpn

      Unless you use a VPN I can assure you it doesn't.

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: vpn

        "Unless you use a VPN I can assure you it doesn't."

        It most certainly does, ZSn.

        With or without VPN.

        Downloading doesn't seem to work, only streaming.

        Have you tried it yourself?

        "I could think of a few places you might have reception issues, that would argue with that claim."

        I'm guessing the UK or USA?

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: Radio iPlayer

      I could think of a few places you might have reception issues, that would argue with that claim.

  7. BurnT'offering

    New device category

    Drum roll please ... ladeez and gennulmen, I give you, The Dablet!

    You read it here first

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: I give you, The Dablet!

      ... something that will be coming soon, to a weekend near you.

  8. Lee D Silver badge

    Am I the only person who, despite having DAB and FM in my car, just never listens to it?

    Three songs per hour interspersed with adverts, talking incessant nonsense and pointless jingles?

    I just plug in an SD card and have done with it.

    Traffic news? My satnav does 100 times better traffic than any guy reeling off road numbers from a helicopter.

    Actual news? There are so many other services that are better to consume from.

    General chatter? Please, I try to get away from that kind of nonsense, I don't need it when I'm trapped in my car.

    The other day my girlfriend asked what DAB was. That's how much impact that's had. And then we sat and went through from thirty-forty "preset channels" on the car DAB. All of them, we just skipped, then turned it off.

    I mean, jeez, if you have a phone you can use (can't do that while driving), why on earth would you want DAB anyway? Just go to the Internet stream (they aren't data-heavy at all), go to the news site, or join some forum of complete nutters giving their racist opinions if that's what you're after.

    1. Triggerfish

      Well radio 6 is OK play some good stuff on there, Chill FM is great also but only works around London and Essex. As for the rest yeah, I dunno why but radio adverts are just the worst.

    2. Lamont Cranston

      Each to their own.

      I have a DAB in my car, as well as streaming on my phone, and generally prefer to have the DAB on. I'll switch back to FM, if I'm in a poor reception area, but that only works for Radio 4, everything else that interests me is not available on FM.

      Currently converting all my CDs to play through the radio's USB socket, but it's much less faff to just switch between the radio stations that interest me. I doubt you're the only one not interested, but plenty of people are able to find something on the radio that fits with their interests.

    3. cambsukguy

      An 80kbps mono station takes 30MB / hour so it adds up if that is your daily commute. That would require me to switch from a £7/month contract for all the data I need whilst out and about etc. (built-in maps help) to something more bottomless - sure maybe only £5/month more but that is still a massive price increase compared to what I actually pay.

      Also, you would require an A2DP connection or, worse, a wire - my radio is DAB but doesn't have aux-in for instance - it also doesn't have Bluetooth so I would be shit out of luck.

      And I am not going to drive around with a set of cans on head that's for damn sure.

      And, I would have to power my phone in the car to avoid pointless battery drain, more hassle unless I paid out for wireless charging in-car too.

      I work on car radios and I hear a lot of this FM-is-better-than-DAB but it is not true at all subjectively - especially in a car, BBC Radio 3 (Classical music and speech) will tell you that very quickly, the hiss during the quiet patches are terrible to behold - a reminder of vinyl but without the scratches.

      I only listen regularly to one or two DAB stations and the biggest bugbear, for the UK at least, is the lack of stereo but, since my favourite station is not available on FM anyway, DAB in mono is the only choice. It turns out that it is much less of a problem that one thinks.

      Adverts, not a fan. Somebody here has worked out a reasonable threshold of adverts to music that I can bear easily and I hate adverts, never watch live commercial TV - pause and delay all the way when I do watch something 'live'. The biggest issue with adverts on the station I listen to the most is that they often place adverts next to something else like traffic or news thus extending the non-music period when it is not necessary - music, news, music, ads please.

      I imagine this is for the DJs to get a much-needed longer gap, it's either that or play Bat out of Hell again.

    4. Paul

      my car radio is pretty good, but doesn't have DAB.

      still, it's only purpose is to be a bluetooth receiver so I can play podcasts from my phone. I listen to quite a lot of BBC R4, but as podcasts. I play them at 1.1x normal speed. I can rewind too and pause. far more convenient than radio.

  9. Fihart

    Battery life ?

    Let's hope the DAB is a bit more power efficient than the DAB radios I own. As it is, I don't use my phone for music or watching vids because of the battery issue.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Battery life ?

      Roughly a year ago, somebody introduced a new chipset to receive DAB without the usual battery draining power consumption. It was in the tech news. Perhaps this is the first retail product built around it.

    2. Len Silver badge

      Re: Battery life ?

      The older DAB radios used to be power hungry, that's right. However, DAB power consumption hasn't been a problem for some years now and many of the modern chipsets use less power in DAB/DAB+ mode than in FM mode.

      Don't forget, in order to get a bit of a decent FM signal in a moving radio/phone/car with often a minimal aerial and plenty of electronic interference, you have to process the hell out of the FM signal with a Digital Signal Processor to polish it up into something half decent before it can be sent to the amp. That is not cheap from a processing point of view.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simples...

    No chipset needed, sample I/Q and decode in software on the copious (relatively) processor horsepower available on a smartphone.

    Potential for a nice touch screen UI, utilise the existing RF chipset by adding an LNA to an IF stage and couple it to the headphone socket to use the screen of the headphone cable as an antenna.

    Surprised this hasn't been done more often.

    Maybe that's for a good reason

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I will only listen ..

    .. to DABBS radio.

    Alistair? Are you listening?

    :)

  12. Archivist

    Wide market

    OK so we have a crap DAB implementation in the UK. For me and my colleagues living in Herts and Beds it's unusable mobile, and sounds bad at home (when there's any reception). What a waste of money.

    But it can't be so bad in other countries can it? That at least gives the idea a chance.

  13. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    DAB+, you say? What a pity ...

    only DAB in Blighty.

    (See: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/04/01/breaking_fad_dab_plus_is_coming)

    1. Len Silver badge

      Re: DAB+, you say? What a pity ...

      The first DAB+ stations in the UK were launched a few weeks ago when the new Digital 2 multiplex came on air.

  14. BleedinObvious

    Make a slim DAB LG G5 "Friend" and we're talking

    Wouldn't get a 5.7 inch 1280x720 just for this feature. But would definitely consider a slot-in dab on a proper flagship.

  15. Michael Habel Silver badge

    About time...

    Yeah FM might be arguably better, and possibly cheaper. And it doesn't likely need it's own devoted antenna either. But, all the same I welcome this development, if only 'cause it might actually... Finally get DAB+ into the hands of users. And is that really a bad thing?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAB on SUPPLIED headset !

    >Operating the radio apparently requires but a single click of a button on the supplied headset,

    Bad move.

    It's like the old Nokia system.

    A pair of headphones and a receiver chip inline with the cord, powered by a few volts through

    the headphone socket. Bad news of if you lose the headset and replacements are silly money or

    unobtainium in a years time.

    And that means you must always carry the special headphones with you if you want to listen.

    The better way is to actually have the IC in the phone, and then you can just stuff any headphones

    or convenient bit of wire attached to a 3.5mm socket to act as the antenna and away you go.

    The current mobes do this, and do it VERY well, so I'll be sticking to FM radio thanks.

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