Like satellite radio, but don't want to deal with the kludge-y "dock and play" satellite radios that clutter up your car's dashboard? The XM SkyDock could be for you. It looks little different than your average iPod car charger, but the SkyDock has a satellite tuner built in. Pop in any iPhone or iPod Touch, run the free SkyDock control app, and the Apple handheld is transformed into a touch-screen control for the satellite radio service.
The app automatically adjusts to landscape (shown) or portrait mode, and the audio stream can be sent either via line-out or the company's "PowerConnect" system, which transmits the audio to most standard car radios via the car's electrical system. Because the SkyDock is plugged into the car's 12-volt power adapter, it also charges the iPhone/iPod Touch while it's in use. We got a brief hands-on demo of the SkyDock earlier today at a Sirius XM event, and it looked to be working smoothly, even with beta software.
Why invest in the SkyDock rather than just firing up the Sirius XM app on your iPhone? The app, as has been widely observed, omits much of "the good stuff." Rights issues preclude many of the service's keystone channels, including MLB Play-by-Play, NFL Play-by-Play, Nascar Radio, and Howard Stern. By contrast, because it's a full-fledged over-the-air satellite radio, the SkyDock offers the entire Sirius XM catalog, including those stations.
The SkyDock app also enables iTunes tagging: hear a song you like on one of the music stations, and a touch of the screen will tag it for later download on iTunes. Naturally, the SkyDock will also play music stored on your iPhone/iPod. (Whether that includes audio from other iPhone apps--such as Pandora, Last.fm, and the like--wasn't specified.) (Note: Last.fm is a part of CBS Interactive, which also publishes CNET News.)
The XM SkyDock will be available this fall for $120. In addition to a compatible iPod Touch or iPhone (any model that runs iPhone OS 3.0 will work), you'll need a valid Sirius XM subscription.