Gadget Spot: XM SkyDock

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It's been eight years since Circuit City installed my first satellite radio in the Chevy Blazer I was driving at the time. The radio - Sony's Plug & Play (DRN-XM01) - was XM Radio's very first model.

Today, Sony no longer makes stand-alone satellite radios. XM Radio, which then competed with Sirius Radio, merged with its rival a year and half ago to become Sirius XM Radio. Chevy dropped the Blazer from its lineup about four years ago. And while Circuit City exists online, it no longer has physical store locations.

My Sony Plug & Play does still exist. The gadget sits at my bedside, where I've set it up to play for an hour each night as a satellite radio channel lulls me to sleep.

This little tale speaks volumes about how much can change in the world of gadgets in just a few years' time. So does the latest plug-and-play radio from Sirius XM, the XM SkyDock (available for $120 at Best Buy).

This time around, I installed and activated the XM SkyDock myself in under 30 minutes. For the money, you simply get a dock that plugs into your vehicle's lighter (electrical) socket and an antenna to capture the satellite radio signal.

To make the system work, the XM SkyDock requires its owner to have an iPhone or iPod Touch (any generation of either will do, though you must have OS 3.0 or later installed). Once you install the free XM SkyDock software on your iPhone or iPod Touch, you'll need to sign up your SkyDock for a monthly satellite radio subscription and you're good to go.

The unit's sound plays through your vehicle's sound system via a supplied wire that plugs into an auxiliary jack (if you have one), or by broadcasting its signal through your FM radio (if you don't).

The gadget also lets you tag songs you hear for purchase from iTunes later, and allows you to display sports scores and stock ticker information.

The SkyDock itself can be moved from vehicle to vehicle. And I even listened to satellite radio in my home by plugging the SkyDock's DC12V Socket into a power supply from Radio Shack that gets its power from a standard wall outlet.

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