App Review: TuneIn Radio

I grew up in western New York. Buffalo area, to be specific. The radio station I listened to for sports out there was WGR 550. When I moved out here in the mid-90s, I lost the ability to keep home-spun tabs on the Bills and Sabres. Of course, that was about 15 years ago–right around the time the Internet was breaking wide open world-wide.

Streaming media came along, and all of the sudden, I was able to tune in to my favorite sports radio station from anywhere. However, the requirement was a desktop or a laptop; I couldn’t just plug in using my little Sanyo PM8200.

And along came smartphones. As phones got more and more smarter (see the grammatical humor there?) with more and more capability, apps like Pandora and Home Radio hit the app store. WGR thought they could jump into the fray and make their own app. And they did, right? What a great idea! It’s one of the most robust radio station apps I’ve seen. All kinds of awesome interaction–emailing the studio, texting, calling (hi … it’s a phone, after all), audio vault for past programs … great app! If only it would run well on something other than wi-fi.

What it touts as being its best feature in the ability to stream audio live (or at least as live as it can get with a pretty large buffer) becomes its greatest weakness; unless you’re at full bars or on wi-fi, forget it. The app will freeze up, and the only way to get it to function is to close it out and restart it. LAME.

I brought this up on the Sabres message board a few days ago. A bunch of people chimed in and said that they too were having issues, and they really hate the app cuz it’s so worthless. Fair statement. Then someone posted a comment about TuneIn Radio. This person kept raving about how it’s so great, the buffer is strong, and it’s never died on him. With free agency looming, I *had* to find some way to stay connected. I downloaded the app, and … wow. Just wow.

So here are some key excellent points.

First off, the app is an extension of the website, www.tunein.com. Great name. Easy to remember, very simple. Like it a lot. On the website, the first page you see is a list of local radio stations that you can stream. It lists 8, but you can click the “browse all local radio” link and get a full list. A few of the stations might be greyed out due to a lack of streaming address, so don’t freak out if you run across that. For example, the local radio station at Weber State is KWCR. While it’s listed on TuneIn’s website, it’s not available to stream. Boo. Hiss. I’m going to make some phone calls on Tuesday and find out if they have a streaming address cuz they need one. However, KRCL out of Salt Lake streams. Excellent!

So that’s the website. The app is about the same as the website … but *mobile*! Which, you know … should be, since it’s an app. The beauty of this thing is the sheer number of stations you can pull in with this thing. Fact: you can stream folk music from the Antarctic. Trust me–I know this because I’ve done this. So when I tell you that you can stream stations from ALL over the world, I really do mean ALL OVER THE WORLD. I’ve found stations from Portugal, Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan … that’s right–Uzbekistan. UZR1. No idea what they’re saying, but I’m digging the music.

If you hear something you really like, you can record it to your phone and play it back later. It store a list of your recordings in the Recordings section on the buttons tool bar.

Editor’s note: it should be pointed out that the Uzbek station sounds like it’s broadcasting under water at about 11000 khz. Any semblance to even a decent mono feed is purely coincidental. So while I’m not totally overwhelmed with the broadcast quality, I am more than just whelmed that I can actually pick up Uzbek radio at all.

There are lists according to local radio stations, recently visited, recommended, music, talk, sports stations … you can browse by location or language. Have a hankering for some exquisite Mandarin Chinese? Look it up! Want to eavesdrop on those retarded chowderhead beantown Bruins fans sports radio talk? Look it up! THERE IS A STREAMING STATION FROM BARROW ALASKA. Name of the station? “Top of the World Radio.” HA! That’s freakin’ awesome.

Because I want to come back later and check out what’s going on up there, I’ve added it to my presets by pressing the little heart icon in the top right corner of the Now Playing screen. You can do that with any station or feed. That way you don’t have to come back to it later.

There are two versions in the app store: free and paid. Pony up for the paid one. The free one “only” streams 45000 stations and broadcasts. 🙂 Because let’s face it: 45000 radio stations just isn’t enough, is it?

Now … I know there are other apps that do this kind of thing, with the streaming radio stations. I’ve used them. I’ve even liked some of them. This app, though … man. I just love it. The interface is clean, simple and intuitive. The number of available stations and locations is sick.

Give it a shot. It’s worth it.

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