Visual Radio launches with Virgin Radio...and Bristol GWR FM!

Our gadget radar's been tracking Visual Radio for the past two years, and today we had a red alert: it's finally gone live.O2's been planning the serv

Our gadget radar's been tracking Visual Radio for the past two years, and today we had a red alert: it's finally gone live.

O2's been planning the service - FM radio on your phone, plus pictures, text and web-like pages - since February, and last week it flicked the big switch with Virgin Radio and, um, Bristol GWR FM.

Virgin started its offering last Monday with wallpapers, ‘now playing’ info similar to DAB, plus the chance to contact presenters, enter competitions and other interactive thingymabobs. Bristol followed on Thursday with a similar smorgasbord.

The one big advantage Virgin has - aside from not being based in Bristol - is that it's promising a music download option 'soon', so you could download Razorlight's America a second after listening to it. It's taken Virgin six months to get Visual Radio up and running, mind, so don't expect anything before 2007.

There are a couple of catches. The first is that you'll have to be packing a Nokia to watch and listen to Visual Radio - there are a total of 22 Nokias running Visual Radio and O2 currently has seven on its roster in the shape of the N70, N80, 3250, 6233, 6111, 6280 and 6131.

The second fly in the audio-visual ointment is that 'watching the radio' will cost you around £1.20 an hour and will also include adverts that you've basically paid to download.

We've seen Visual Radio running before and it's a kooky, intriguing idea. Ultimately, though, it seems kinda flawed: surely the point of radio is that you don't need to be watching a screen? We'll find out for sure this Thursday when O2 loans us a review sample.

In the meantime, don't rule out Capital launching Visual Radio in London as a rival to Virgin - its parent company owns Bristol GWR FM.

Essentials

Related links:

O2

Visual Radio

Virgin Radio

Bristol GWR FM

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