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We haven't listened to the radio in years. Often there are more commercials than songs, and blocks of commercials can last forever. Then you get to hear the same twenty hit songs over and over. If you live in a city with great radio, you're lucky, as media consolidation homogenizes everywhere else.
People complained that the iPhone didn't have an AM/FM tuner in it, but what if your radio wasn't just limited to your immediate area? What if you could spin that dial and tune in to stations all over the globe? If you're a radio aficionado, that's an app worth having.
Synsion Radio Technologies has put together a sweet little app with TuneIn Radio Pro. The moment you drop your buck on this app, it'll prompt for your location. Allow it access and you'll get a list of local radio stations. Like the local college radio? If they stream online, this app will find them, but if it doesn't, you can always find them through the built-in browser and add them manually.
Simple, Easy to Navigate
The home screen of the app features a list of choices with your local stations at the top. Below that is a menu to a screen of recent choices, recommended stations from around the world, then categorical breakdowns. If you're looking for music, tap that menu button to be taken to a list of genre types from adult contemporary to world. At the bottom of genres is a list of top music stations.
It Even Tells You What Song's On What Station, So You Can Avoid Creed
If talk radio's more your speed, navigate back to the home screen and tap "Talk" where you'll be taken to a list of business talk, political talk (of two stripes), NPR stations, astrology radio, and more. Back at the home menu, your choices also include sports radio, then the ability to choose stations based on global location or language. Got a hankering for Armenian top 40? Well, you're in luck, as Mega FM spins the tunes.
TuneIn also includes the ability to link to stations you find online at the desktop. Simply go to www.tunein.com and set up an account. From there you'll find the same selection as in the app, and stations you like you can add to a list of favorite presets. The browser and app will sync once you're logged in through the app and all those stations you stream at your desk at work are available to you on your iOS device later on the ride home. Can't find something on your device? Pull the screen down for a search window or use the browser to track down music and add a link to it in your presets.
Even Podcasts Online are Available
The iPhone/iPod version is pretty stripped down with lists and links, but the iPad version keeps everything on one cleanly laid-out screen. To the left you have your category navigation, below that in the same sideboard is a little player with controls. To the right of this is a larger pane with the various genres available listed. Below that, stations are listed complete with their logo. A nice touch in both versions is that below the station name you'll find the title of the particular show that's on or even the song and artist.
Record Your Indian Pop Hits
Once on the screen for the station, a quick tap of the Options button lets you choose streaming bit rates, view the station schedule, view their playlist, and even set an alarm to wake you to music or to start streaming and recording the show you found on their schedule. This is a great benefit if you know you're not going to be awake for that midnight concert. But note that you have to have your device plugged in and the app on to make this work (if your device sleeps you may miss the show).
An ad-supported free version is provided, but you lose out on the browser as well as the ability to record music.
ooTunesfrom Oogli LLC is very similar in features to TuneIn, but it comes at a significantly higher price tag. And what does that extra four dollars get you? In neither the iPhone nor iPad version will you find much difference in the app's arrangement of navigation buttons. Your home screen lists stations, ones you've favorited, recent stations, a web browser, bookmarks (which are somehow different from favorites), a list of your recordings, Radio RooLette (which randomly gives you a listening list), and settings.
A Similar UI, But Not as Pretty, We Think
But down at the bottom left where the mini player rests, the arrow-out button allows you to post your song to social media, and also to find the tune on YouTube or in iTunes. If you like the song enough, ooTunes makes buying it a whole lot easier.
Don't Act Like You Never Bought Andy Griffith Comedy Albums
Also, recording comes built in with ooTunes and works automatically. Often when you're listening to the radio, you have to be at the ready to press record to catch a song. As soon as you begin playing a station, ooTunes goes to work recording what it was you listened to. This can take up a bunch of memory on a space cramped device, but is convenient as all get out. If only there were the option to edit the recording down to just one track instead of the entire half hour or however long you were recording then this would be a killer feature.
Kandahar Radio, For Later
On the minus side of the equation, ooTunes offers considerably poorer navigation to the stations you want. Tap the stations menu and you get the choice to search or browse. The search window makes finding things easier than browsing which dumps all genres together and includes sub-genres. This makes for a lengthy list to scroll through and could use a little overarching categorization to make finding things easier. Why should all talk stations be salted throughout the music? Do I really need to work my way down to the P's and find Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, and then Progressive Talk if I want liberal radio?
And This Is Supposed To Be Some Kind of Order?
If you're a last.fm user, however, this may be a nice companion app, as you can sync your account there and choose to scrobble your radio choices. By downloading the $19.99 ooTunes server to your computer, you can sync your device and computer accounts and keep track of all your favorite stations. It's a bit of a pricey solution, all things considered.
At its heart, this showdown turns on price more than anything. Both TuneIn and ooTunes feature decent sound quality and AirPlay support. But for all the features that will set you back $4.99 for the app and $19.99 for the server with ooTunes, you can have with TuneIn for $0.99. That's a no brainer comparison. When you kick in TuneIn's much more efficient navigation, it's far more polished UI, and the fact that TuneIn offers 20,000 more stations (over 50,000 according to them compared to ooTunes' brag of over 30,000), the price disparity becomes even harder to justify. While ooTunes can get you to buying songs quickly, you're listening to the radio for free for a reason.
Which brings us to a warning: If you're working on a data-capped cell plan, radio streaming can gobble up your allotment fairly quickly. In the course of a couple hours one morning spent hopping around on TuneIn over WiFi, we spent over 100MBs. A few days of this on 3G and that 5GB limit is quickly gone.
Radio for iPhone by Intersect World LLC. For a mere $0.99 you get much of the same features as either of the two apps above, except there’s no recording and no browser. But as a bonus, if you're a Howard Stern fan, Howard 101 on Sirius comes free with the app. Navigation on Radio for iPhone was by far the easiest of the three apps, though with fewer features it wasn’t quite an equal comparison.