Tuesday, August 9, 2011

IPad App Review: Tune-in Radio

What is it?

Tune-in Radio is an iPhone / iPad app that brings digital radio to your device.  It is published by Synsion Radio Technologies and there is a free version or a more fully-featured version for £0.59.  Please note, it is a universal binary so it is the same app whether it's for the iPhone or iPad.  The app resizes itself automatically according to the device it is being used on.
In Use / Features

Tune-in Radio has a very nice interface and certainly on the iPad, the extra screen real-estate is put to good use.  Two thirds of the screen is taken up with recently-listened stations, bookmarked stations and so on while on the left is a navigation pane allowing quick access to different search parameters such as by genre, by location, by type (music or all-talk) and even by language.

In addition to being a gateway for 40-odd thousand radio stations, Tune-in Radio promises to deliver Sky Plus-like controls, much like DAB-devices already do.  Live radio can be paused and rewound up to 30 minutes back in time.  Shows can be saved out into the podcasts area of iTunes and listened to at a later date (paid-version only) or loaded back into Tune-in Radio itself.  Not all radio stations carry the extra broadcasting information but a lot do and this allows artist information to be displayed along with album art and even links to the iTunes store for purchase.  Nice.

When playing, there is a very swish-looking full screen mode where it shows just the currently playing station.  This makes the iPad look like a very sophisticated wireless player.  If you squint, you can almost imagine yourself to be in a futuristic film, swiping the air to move projected computer imagery like a hologram.  You're not of course and you'll only end up looking like a fool, waving your arms around to nothing but still, the thought's there.

For iOS 4.x, like many other app publishers, Synsion converted Tune-in Radio to take advantage of the multi-tasking and fast-app switching capabilities that that OS update brought.  This allows the radio to be played while other apps are being used.  Of course, this is something PC users take for granted but for early-adopters of Apple portable devices, it's a recent innovation (as of Nov 2010-ish). 

When selecting a station to play, there's a small period of inactivity as the app attempts to connect then buffer the sound stream.  All streaming devices do this and it allows for the sound to be played continuously without a 'jittery' effect to it.  Occasionally Tune-in will lose the connection to a station and it will attempt to rebuffer the sound.  Luckily, it will happily continue from where it left off so you don't lose anything.

Tune-in Radio also provide an alarm clock so it can wake you in the morning to some hardcore 170bpm Jungle Drum 'n' Bass (or other annoying station of your choosing).  They do recommend the device is plugged in for this and I would have to agree.  You don't want the battery to run out before the alarm has gone off. 

Differences to the free version

The main differences between the paid and free versions are a lack of adverts and the ability to record a radio show for listening later.  There are some more subtle differences such as extra bookmarking features and more information about the artist.  Not only that, delving a little deeper sees the addition of bit-rate choosing and custom URL inputs - neat options and well worth a few pence of anyones money.  


At only 59 pence for the full version, it's less than the price of a chocolate bar and you're supporting further development into what is a great bit of kit.  All the mainstream stations are there such as everything by BBC radio, not to mention a whole raft of local stations either from your own home town or if you live in Vladivostok.  It's incredibly simple to use and provides access to free music - yes, free music that is also legal.  There are so many Internet radio stations and podcasters who give up their time to pump out this stuff and with the full version, you can save it away for a later listen.  For what is essentially turning the iPad or iPhone / iPod into a radio station, they sure have managed to fit in some really neat options.   It's slick, easy-to-use and puts 40,000+ radio stations into your hand.  A network connection is obviously needed and because of that, it isn't recommended for use over 3G for a long period of time (bandwidth costs and all that). 

A stunning app and well worth the dosh.

Cost: £0.59
Size: 9.6 mb
Overall App Store rating: 5 stars from nearly 6,000 ratings.

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