It's official -- the best feature of SiriusXM's iPhone (and now Android app) has been removed from many of its most popular stations. Version 2.0.2 of the iPhone app confirmed what many subscribers suspected: licensing contracts got in the way of convenience and technology.
The satellite radio company updated its iPhone app on April 16 to version 2.0.1. Many listeners who updated reported network errors preventing them from using the app, and others lucky enough to connect to SiriusXM bemoaned the loss of an exit button and were left wondering why 5-hour rewind was gone from their favorite stations. However, because the app was full of glitches and its iTunes description remained unchanged -- promising 5-hour rewind on all stations -- it wasn't clear if the feature loss was permanent or just a glitch.
Version 2.0.2, released last week, seemed neither to fix the network errors, nor bring back the missing features removed with version 2.0.1. But one issue was cleared up: 5-hour rewind won't be available on every station. Along with promising to fix the network error bug (it didn't, according to app user comments), the iTunes app description now advertises five-hour rewind only on "most" stations.
SiriusXM's public relations team did not respond to my e-mails or calls about the reasons prompting this change. However, the entertainment giant's Twitter help team isn't as tight-lipped. In response to one app user's question about the missing rewind feature, @SiriusXM replied: "In some cases, with our News channels, our ability to offer Start Now is restricted by third parties & our contracts with them."
It's not clear why the contracts prevent rewinding 5 hours of programming on a station, and yet upcoming satellite radio tuners let listeners record channels and shows. It's possible that some stations felt it competed with their own mobile products that they're struggling to monetize. Or it could be just another way to squeeze more money from SiriusXM.