Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Skinny on the Stiletto 2

Just the other day, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a brand new SIRIUS Stiletto 2.

They've only just been released and will set you back $329 in any store you find one in (try Best Buy, Radioshack or Circuit City.)

But the question on many people's lips (well, the ones I've been boasting too, anyway) is 'Just what IS a Stiletto 2?"

Well, Stiletto 2 is a handheld, portable Satellite Radio - like an iPod thingy which picks up 130 SIRIUS radio 'channels'.

So through your headphones, you get commercial-free music (they've got stuff to suit EVERY taste, from channels dedicated to Sinatra and Springsteen to Bluegrass stations and the latest pop and rock hits) plus loads of talk, news, entertainment and the 'boring' stuff like local weather and traffic.

Normally you can only pick this stuff up if your car's got a SIRIUS radio (see me fitting one to my monstrous '86 Lincoln here) but now you can roam about to your hearts content with all of that music, sports and chat crammed into your pocket.

It's really very clever.

The Stiletto 2 comes with a pair of 'antenna headphones' which turn your head into a satellite dish, picking up the space transmissions and delivering them to a little radio the size of a mobile phone.

SIRIUS radio, wherever you go!

But that's not all it does - because otherwise it would just be a really cool, space-age version of those $5 pocket FM radios you can pick up.

The Stiletto 2 also works as an iPod style MP3 player - it's very clearly designed to take a bite out of Apple's share of this market.

You can plug Stiletto 2 into your computer and upload 2gbs of your favourite MP3 and WMA files - and then create playlists and organise them and basically do everything Apple Mac's similarly priced iPod can do - plus pick up all that lovely radio, too.

Okay, so iPods might have more storage space (some of them go as high as 160gbs) but you can expand the storage in your Stiletto 2 with a cheap microSD™ memory card - upgrading it to 8gbs and storing hundreds of hours of music.

And seriously, if your 'essential' music collection can't fit onto an 8gb memory card (that's the equivalent of 1,500 individual songs) then you need to step AWAY from the iTunes and go out and get yourself a life.

And the 130 radio stations and MP3 library crammed into that funky little device isn't the be-all and end-all of the Stiletto 2. It's got some more tricks up it's elegant black sleeve.

With the Stiletto 2, obsessive music fans can create their own music library without spending a penny on iTunes. There's this little 'love' button on the front of the Stiletto 2. If you're walking down the street, rocking to a track you like, you can give that button a tap and it'll record the song you're listening to.

Bang! One touch, one song - squirrelled away on your Stiletto's memory and accessible any time you want to listen to it, in exactly the same way as your MP3 collection. No need to find it on iTunes first, shell out $0.99 and upload it to your playlist.

Stiletto 2 lets you do this for pretty much any song you hear, on any of the 69 music channels. That means before you know it, you've got an iTunes style library of downloaded music without having gone anywhere near a PC.

Okay, it's not quite as perfect as it sounds. Some record companies don't want listeners downloading their music for free, so certain tracks are blocked. The Stiletto 2 also limits the amount of individual songs you can download, restricting you to a mere 10 hours of 'loved' songs. But, that's still around 200 songs! For free!

And as Tommy Cooper once said - Wait, there's more...

As any of you technical types will have discovered, there is one disadvantage to satellite radio. Your car's SIRIUS radio stops receiving a signal when you go into a tunnel or garage. Likewise, the Stiletto 2 can't pick up a satellite feed if you're inside a building, in the subway or even standing underneath a particularly bushy tree.

But the Stiletto 2 cleverly comes up with two different options to keep you tuned in even when you're out of the range of the SIRIUS satellite rays.

The first is really clever - a WiFi listening device.

Good old WiFi is everywhere these days. Go to your local coffee shop or MacDonalds and your wireless-equipped laptop will be able to access the Internet (without having to be plugged into anything.) Your Stiletto 2 can do exactly the same thing!

Either automatically, or with a bit of nudging, the Stiletto 2 will connect wirelessly to any WiFi network around - and you can listen to most (but not all) of the SIRIUS radio channels via the Internet. You don't need a computer, either. Just press a few buttons and you'll be able to listen to SIRIUS in any coffee shop in North America - as long as it's got one of those free WiFi networks (and no self-respecting coffee shop is without one these days.)

But if you find yourself in some obscure corner of the globe in which you are robbed of both a satellite signal and a WiFi network, all is not lost - you won't be limited to enjoying whatever MP3's you've uploaded, or listening to songs you've previously recorded off SIRIUS.

Because clever old Stiletto 2 anticipates these signal shortages - and while you're listening away in the warm sunlight (and receiving a satellite signal) the Stiletto 2 will automatically record 'radio replays.'

These are big chunks of music and talk recorded from live satellite radio. When you find yourself in obscuria, you can nip to the 'radio replay' function on Stiletto 2 and you'll be able to enjoy hours of content your sneaky Stiletto recorded earlier.

So with a satellite receiver, WiFi mode, radio replays and all that lovely MP3 storage capacity, the Stiletto 2 makes sure you always have something new to listen to.

It's pretty neat!

I think the big question on everybody's lips is:

Should I get a Stiletto 2 instead of an iPod?

Well, that's a tough question. I've tried to consider the options and this is what I've come up with.

Cost: An iPod 'classic' will set you back $349 - twenty bucks more than the Stiletto 2. But you don't need to pay a monthly subscription to receive service (the Stiletto 2 will cost you $12.95 a month.) Bear in mind, though, that you'll have to buy content to listen to, either in the form of CD's you 'burn' through iTunes, or through iTunes itself (in which you pay for each individual song or album you buy.)

The $12.95 for a SIRIUS subscription - which delivers 130 channels of constantly live music and talk - would buy you less than fourteen songs a month via iTunes. And with the 'love' button, you can store twenty times that many songs absolutely free on your Stiletto 2, to listen to any time you want. Winner: Stiletto 2.

Looks: The Stiletto 2 is very clearly a product of the iPod generation. From the glossy black finish to the rotating media dial, the whole layout of the Stiletto 2 should feel intuitive to iPod users. The Stiletto 2 is a very attractive little device - but it's clearly riding on the iPod's coattails.

From the slick little iTouch to the elegance and simplicity of the iPod 'nano,' this is the stuff Apple do best and however groundbreaking the concept and execution of Stiletto 2 is, the physical design of the device was intentionally modeled on the iPod concepts. Winner: iPod.

Features: On the face of it, the iPod might appear to have the Stiletto 2 beat. Even the budget priced 80gb iPod 'Classic' has ten times as much storage as Stiletto 2 - and can play videos and display pictures on the tiny screen. If watching squinty versions of your favourite movies (compressed to the size of a postage stamp) is your sort of thing, the iPod is the clear winner. On the other hand, Stiletto 2 features all that live music and radio, which the iPod simply can't match. The only iPod contents you can enjoy, you have to buy and upload yourself.

There's no clear winner here - you just have to decide what it is you'll be using your handheld device for. If you're pretty sure you'll only be using it to listen to music and radio, the Stiletto 2 is the winner. If you fancy looking at pictures and watching videos - or have a music collection that takes up more than one room of your apartment - the iPod is for you. Winner: Draw.

'Cool' ness: An iPod is SO last year. What was once the must-have accessory is now utterly commonplace. The iPod 'Touch' is pretty 'cool', as is the Apple iPhone, but the recent Apple scandals (like dropping the price of the iPhone just two months after it first went on sale) has damaged Apple's 'hip' brand and made a lot of their most loyal customers look like chumps.

For the next year or so, the Stiletto 2 will certainly top the iPod in 'show off' stakes. Winner: Stiletto 2.

So the verdict is in, two to one the Stiletto 2 is a better bet this season than whatever Apple is touting from their iStore. The question is whether consumers will be brave enough to admit it.

SIRIUS is launching a pretty daring campaign by going head to head with Apple. For the last few years, no handheld music device has been taken seriously unless it has an 'i' in the name. Although there are plenty of other portable devices that play music and movies (like the Microsoft Xune) the iBrand has a stranglehold on the market.

However, the Stiletto 2 is standing out from the crowd by genuinely offering something Apple can't. Stiletto 2 features live radio - 130 channels of it. It's effortless, it's ingenious and it genuinely appeals to everybody. There's SIRIUS Channel 80 for my father, Channel 62 for my mother, my wife can get her Morrisey injection on Channel 8, my sister can stay top of the pops on Channel 1 and there's even the defining music from my brother's generation on Channel 23. And for me? A quiet evening in with the Chairman of the Board on Channel 75.

What's great about the Stiletto 2 - and head and shoulders above the iPod - is that all of this content is live. If you're listening to the Top 40 on Sirius Channel 1, you can hear, save and store the new 'Number One' the moment it's announced. It's coming at you fresh, unscripted and constantly updated in a way the iPod simply can't deliver.

Stiletto 2 is available across North America for $329.99 - and requires a monthly $12.95 subscription to listen to SIRIUS Satellite Radio.


Anonymous said...

I don't have a comment so much as a question that nobody can seem to give me a clear answer on. Can you download MP3 that are stored in Itunes to the Stilleto 2?

Little Kitty Slave said...

No, because iTunes files are in MP4 format, which the Stiletto 2 can't understand.

ravin said...

actually it depends on whether the files in your iTunes are in mp3 format or MP4... if you purchased them from iTunes, they're in MP3, if you ripped them, or downloaded them some other way, they're in MP3 format and can be transferred however you want. You just need to find them on your computer. (right click on a song in iTunes, and choose, "show in explorer" and you'll know where the mp3 file is)

Anonymous said...

I was curious if the stiletto 2 will work if you don't have a subscription to sirius? For example, you give as a gift and the person that you give it to can't afford the subscription after it runs out - can that person still listen to the mp3 player? Thanks

Roland Hulme said...

You will be able to listen to your MP3 music files, but if you've 'loved' and recorded any songs off of satellite radio, you won't be able to listen to those without a subscription.