Radio aficionados who want to expand their listening beyond what’s offered by their local radio stations will find a lot to like in the TuneIn Radio Pro. This 99 cent iPad app (also compatible with Android, Blackberry, Palm, Samsung Bada, and Windows Phone devices) lets you tune into over 70,000 global AM and FM stations that run the gamut from sports talk to J-pop. Even better, you can record programming to your iPad’s storage, dig through archived programs, make music purchases, and connect with Last.fm to further tailor your listening experience there. It’s a remarkably ambitious app that, thankfully, manages to execute well on nearly every level.
Design and Layout
TuneIn Radio Pro differs from services such as Spotify in that you’re receiving live, streaming radio. This presents its own set of positives and negatives. On the plus side, you can tune into talk radio and sporting events (Slacker Radio lets you do that on a far smaller scale). On the downside, you can’t ban or favorite individual songs or shows to customize your experience. It is radio, after all.
All of TuneIn Radio Pro’s most useful features, except for a few options, are easily accessed from the home screen. The left column contains a search box that lets you scour stations and a Browse section that lets you find a station based on geographical location, language, or topic. Tapping any of these selections opens options in the wider right column, which serves as the main content area. Below it is a section that highlights the top stations in each genre. In short, finding content is easy.
Toward the bottom of the left column are two icons: A clock and a gear. The clock icon, when tapped, transforms your iPad into a digital alarm clock by letting you select a station that begins playing at a user-designated time. It worked well in my tests, waking me up to the sounds of Jazz88 FM 88.3 at 6 AM on the dot. There’s also a Clock Display mode that displays the time in large digits.
The gear icon lets you log into your Radiotime.com account (so you can sync presets across devices), view how much data you’ve streamed (handy if you’re streaming audio over a cellular data network), and tinker with a number of other options.
TuneIn Radio Pro offers a number of ways to find radio stations. I was in the mood for sports radio, so I keyed “WFAN” into the search engine. TuneIn Radio Pro returned my query—as well as the station name and logo—in a thin, horizontal strip across the top of the results screen. After a few seconds of buffering, the “Benigno & Roberts” show began smoothly streaming at 64 Kbps. The show’s audio quality was what you’d expect from talk radio—the hosts, with their professional equipment, sounded quite good, while callers sounded less than stellar. Still, it lacked the pops and hisses that you sometimes get with terrestrial radio, which was a plus.
You can also find stations by tapping the Music, Talk, or Sports tabs and drilling down through the various categories. I discovered stations and genres that I didn’t know existed, such as SomaFM: Secret Agent (which streams mysterious tunes that would sound appropriate in a James Bond flick). Of course there are tons of traditional American music (World, Top 40, Hip Hop, etc.) and talk (The Dennis Miller Show, The Diane Rehm Show, Darkness Radio). Sports are well-represented by a number of dedicated NCAA college radio stations, and general sports talk stations that broadcast professional games, but if you want to listen to some of those contests, you’ll need to subscribe to a league’s streaming service plan. You can also listen to podcasts such as NBA Today and TWiT.
Tapping the drop-down arrow adjacent to the station name expanded the information strip and let me view a scrollable timeline of upcoming shows—along with thumbnail images of the hosts when applicable—a very cool addition for radio fans who want to a glimpse of what’s coming down the pipe. For example, I could see that Steve Somers’ show begins at 1 PM. Naturally, tapping the icon before a show was available didn’t produce a stream, but a window opened that let me dig through a back catalog of previously-aired interviews. This was a pleasant surprise that added greatly to the apps value. Tapping the heart icon let me save a station as a preset.
As a station plays, its logo appears in a box in the lower-left corner of the screen, along with the station name and geographic location. Double tapping the station icon in the lower-left causes the app to enter an alternate view where the icons, images, and text are much larger and easier to read. Some of the icons, unfortunately, become low-res pixilated messes when blown up. On the upside, swiping from right to left while in this mode lets you see recommended stations and genres.
Bringing a finger to the Location tab opened a map of North America, with my current location, New York City, highlighted. There were also a number of other locations with red pins stuck in them, which designated that they had a streaming station. These cities included the likes of Austin, Colorado Springs, Juarez, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Montreal, San Francisco, and Tampico.
I used multi-touch gestures to expand the view to include the entire globe. I tapped Addis Abeba, a city in Kenya, and the app began streaming Afro FM 105.3 Buffering took over a minute, and eventually stopped due to the app being “unable to connect to stream.” This happened a few times with distant cities. I had better success when I tuned into Hiroshima’s P Station 76.6, which delivered a mix of music and news at a listenable 32 kbps. Tapp even gives each station a numerical rating based on the quality of the stream—WFAN was rated as “100% Reliable,” while P Station was rated “95 % Reliable.”
Tapping the red Record button lets you record audio to the iPad’s internal storage. I recorded a whopping 1 hour and 4 minutes of the Elium Lounge and Trip Hop station which played back flawlessly when I jumped over to the Recordings area and tapped the file. TuneIn Radio Pro keeps the last half hour of live radio in memory so you can rewind to a few minutes back if you’d like. You can also schedule recordings, which makes the app an audio DVR of sorts.
On a few occasions I encountered a music track that had a Last. Fm icon beneath it. Once I tapped that, the track opened within my previously installed Last.FM app (if you don’t have Last.FM installed, you’re prompted to download it). From within the Last.FM app, I could ban or favorite tracks, thus further customizing my Last.FM listening experience. TuneIn Radio Pro also gives you the option of purchasing songs from within the iPad’s iTunes app.
Should You Purchase TuneIn Radio Pro?
Unquestionably, yes. TuneIn Radio Pro is designed for radio fans with varied tastes—the sheer number of stations that await your ear is staggering. Plus, the app is only 99 cents, which is an incredible price for one this good. I give TuneIn Radio Pro an enthusiastic nod of approval as it easily ranks as one of the best iPad apps available. As such, its worthy of an Editors’ Choice award
More iPad Apps Reviews:
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc