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MyFi & DirecTV

I couldn’t resist any longer. I visited my local Fry’s and bought a MyFi the other night. What’s not to like? It’s great for the car, at home and anywhere on the road. I figured it was a better solution than an MP3 player because I could listen to live broadcasts and always hear something new.

That’s all wonderful, but the darned thing just didn’t work. Or should I say, it didn’t work here in central Indiana. I read several reviews of the device on sites like Amazon and Circuit City.  Most of the comments were favorable, but every so often I came across one that was critical of the weak signal. XM apparently has repeaters set up in the larger cities, but if you’re in a smaller metropolitan area, you’re 100% reliant on the satellite overhead.

All the ads, the website, etc., make the MyFi look like a completely untethered solution for high quality audio. You’d never know that by looking inside the box. There must have been a dozen different antennas and add-on components for the main device. There’s one antenna to use at home and another for your car. What bothered me the most is that you’re even supposed to wear yet another antenna if you’re not using the home or car one. The “wearable” antenna is no small object either – good luck trying to accessorize around this thing! I found that even when I had the wearable antenna plugged in, the signal would come and go.

Needless to say, I returned the MyFi the next day. The XM representative tried to sell me on one of their other radios, but they’re only for use in a car or at home, not in between. He finally acknowledged that this is a “first generation” product and that they’re working on improvements. I love the idea and I’m sure I’ll try the next version. In the mean time, I’m stuck listening to radio the old-fashioned way.

On a related satellite note, I had the pleasure of flying on Frontier airlines recently. What a treat. Besides having very clean jets that always left and arrived on time, they offer DirecTV service for $5. There were about 30 stations to choose from, including both ESPNs, ESPN News and ESPN Classic. It’s a great way to help pass the time on a long flight. But it got me to thinking… If DirecTV has the ability to enable concurrent viewing of 30 channels on a plane, why do they limit you to one channel per tuner in your home? Jim Minatel tells me it’s because they can get the bars to pay a much higher monthly rate for multi-channel service and DirecTV doesn’t want to lose income from those premium subscribers. Couldn’t they more than make up this loss by the dramatically increased volume in subscriptions? I mean, that whole “one-tuner, one-channel” limitation is the only reason I never left cable for satellite. I’ve got to believe that’s been a deterrent for plenty of others who never made the switch. Wouldn’t this put a huge dent in the cable business if the satellite people could figure this out?!

Comments

Christopher Kendalls

I wouldn't enable that capability myself if I were in control of DirectTV. Besides what enthuasiast is going to watch 30 channels at a time other than some master control operator at a television station somewhere? As far as XM, I work in southern virginia and the signal isn't the greatest, particularly in the rain or bad weather. I do like XM's programming but I question whether it's worth the $10 per month, they have an interesting channel called the blend which alternates between playing old school, new school and top-40 every other song and an 80's channel and 90's channel, if you're nostalgic, but you can also get those similar channels through Adelphia or Time Warner if you subscribe to their digital services. Or even DirectTv. Have you used ZOOM? I understand they offer 30 high-definition channels and you can keep the dish indoors for a change.

Joe Wikert

Thanks for the tip, Christopher. I'll look into that. I think if Delphi ever has a firesale on the MyFi device (say, $100 or less), I'll probably buy it again. The service reliability issues make $300 pretty pricey, but I could live with it at $100 or less.

I should have been more clear in my DirecTV thinking. Right, I'm not going to watch 30 channels at the same time, or even 2, for that matter. But I've got several TVs throughout my house and they're usually not tuned to the same channel. Some nights there are 3-4 on, all watching something different. I can't justify paying for 4 separate DirecTV boxes and subscriptions, which is why I've stuck with cable...for now.

Michael Miller

Joe, wonder if the reception problem is device-specific? I have built-in XM in my new car, and have never had a lick of problems. Reception is good enough to come through in carwashes and in my garage -- with the garage door closed. Never run into any spotty reception or outages. For what it's worth, I'd give up my sporty car before I give up my XM. (Well, not really, but you get the point...)

Joe Wikert

Hi Mike. Actually, the MyFi worked quite well when I plugged in the home/office antenna. I suspect I would have had similar success using the car antenna. However, I bought the darned thing to be portable. Wearing around a goofy looking antenna is one thing...losing the signal on a regular basis *while* wearing the goofy looking antenna is simply unacceptable.

Michael Miller

Hmmm... I have this picture of you walking around with a miniature satellite dish strapped to your head, kind of a high-tech electronic beanie for the 21st century...

Joe Wikert

Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but almost. I really wish the darned thing would have worked. It's a great concept, but apparently ahead of its time.

Bill Frazier

I purchased the MyFi about 3 months ago and am eXtremely satisfied with it. I live on the beach so I never have any reception problems there with the satellites Rock & Roll. They also have terrestrial
repeaters located at the beach so I can use it in my house without any external antenna. The only time I have problems with reception is when I am inside a building or house where there are no repeaters located nearby away from the beach area. Even then it is no big deal because it records up to 5 hours of whatever programming you want to listen to. I think it is an eXcellent product with the eXcellent XM Service you can't match.

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