Despite the fact XM and Sirius have merged in the United States, they still operate separately in Canada, and that includes their respective smartphone apps available for the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android phones. They offer a useful way to listen without dedicated hardware, but some key content will be inaccessible.
XM RADIO ONLINE+
Free 14-day trial ($2.99 a month extra for subscribers); $7.99 a month as a standalone product
Available at: Apple App Store, XMradio.ca (for BlackBerry and Android app)
XM's Radio online+ app offers the same level of content across the three different smartphone platforms, which amounts to about 100 channels that include commercial-free music, comedy, news and entertainment, among other categories.
Sirius-exclusive channels like Howard Stern, NFL, Martha Stewart, Playboy are naturally missing, while sports fans may not like that XM's app can't offer its usual play-by-play channels for live games due to bandwidth issues. Streaming content is fairly seamless on 3G in the car, and doesn't really eat up a lot of your data package.
The problem is that the app hasn't been updated to work with the multitasking features of the phones, meaning that if you answer a call, the app won't work in the background and return once the call ends. This is also true if you're using GPS/mapping apps or any other third-party apps as well. You're required to relaunch the app, wait for it to load and go back to the channel you want. You can set aside your favourite channels for easier access, but it's still a process that takes far too long in the car.
Existing XM subscribers pay an extra $2.99 a month (on top of the existing $14.99 per month fee for XM satellite radio) for access to online+, whereas anyone who wants XM online+ as a standalone pays $7.99 per month. The iPhone app also lets you store songs you can buy later from iTunes.
SIRIUS RADIO MOBILE
Free 14-day trial on Android and iPhone
$14.99 monthly subscription fee
Available at: Apple App Store, BlackBerry App World, Android Market
Sirius's smartphone app has a similar layout to XM's, and much of the same content, though there are differences that stand out in sports and music. Sirius doesn't have NHL Home Ice, but does have the NFL. Golf fans might also lament the absence of the PGA channel XM offers.
Music is in abundance, though XM seems to offer a few more channels in the different categories. Rock is the only genre where Sirius has more to offer. Sirius-exclusive channels are available, except for the notable omission of Howard Stern, who can't be heard with this app, even if you are a subscriber.
Like XM's app, streaming works well, but there is no multitasking support to allow Sirius to work in the background while taking a call or using another third-party application. And since the interface is so similar, Sirius doesn't make it any easier than XM to interact with it when driving. Saving favourites is the same, as is the immediate access to the iTunes Store on the iPhone app, but there isn't anything else overtly different in how these two apps function.
Since Sirius doesn't offer a reduced online-only subscription plan, you would need to sign up for a regular subscription, and then just log into your account on your phone.