There are tons of music-listening apps in both of the big app stores, but when you want to find new music, there's nothing better than a streaming-radio app. These apps are set up for browsing through stations and genres so you can get a fresh dose of new options based on the music you like.
This week's collection of apps is all about listening to streaming music on your smartphone. The first app gives you a huge number of live stations from around the globe you can listen to. The second lets you listen to streams as well, but with a subscription so you can pick and choose your music too. The third is a free app that shares some features of each of the first two, and which might be the best of the bunch.
TuneIn Radio (free - iOS|Android) has an intuitive interface that makes it a snap to listen to streaming radio while you're on the move. It offers more than 50,000 stations and 120,000 shows from around the globe, plus, with the help of your iPhone's GPS, it can even serve up all of your local favorites.
Upon launch, TuneIn lets you drill down to exactly what you want to listen to. You can browse local radio, recommended stations, stations for different languages, and even podcasts. You can also choose from categories like sports or talk radio.
Like other radio-streaming apps, TuneIn gives you an enormous list of music genres to choose from, each with a long list of options from around the world, with local choices at the top.
Once you find a few stations you like, you can easily add them to your preset list, right from the station page. In addition, the station page gives you album art for the current song and the option to share via Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail. In some cases, you may also find a shopping cart icon that brings you to the MP3 or album listing on Amazon.com.
For those who are a bit more serious about their streaming media, an upgrade to TuneIn Pro might be worthwhile. The Pro version adds some nifty DVR-like features, so you can pause, rewind, and even record live radio. TuneIn Radio keeps all your recordings in a special section so you can listen to recorded favorites later.
Finally, you may notice that some stations are marked "Restricted by Broadcasters," which means they're not available for streaming through TuneIn. What's nice is that if you happen to click on one of these, TuneIn will automatically find and connect you to a similar station, which is often just as good.
Overall, TuneIn Radio is definitely a solid streaming-radio app. It's easy to use, it performs well, and it's available for free at the App Store. Meanwhile, an upgrade to TuneIn Radio Pro and all of its DVR-like capabilities will only set you back 99 cents.
After logging in (a quick e-mail and password signup), the dark-themed app gives you several options for launching stations. You can tap icons from a list to search, browse Slacker stations, listen to favorites (once you've chosen some), or select from popular stations. Each selection on the first screen leads to another list where you can drill down to find the stations, genres, and music you want to listen to.
While playing a track, Slacker displays both album art as well as artist bios and album reviews (for most songs and artists). The controls to pause, skip, save, and remove an artist from your playlist are located at the bottom of the interface. You'll be able to fine-tune your station requirements while it plays as well as create custom stations. A skip button is available for moving on to the next song, but you get limited skips per session.
Much like Pandora, the free version of Slacker Radio is ad-supported and lets you search for a song and then create a station of similar music based on that song. If you want to take advantage of playlist caching or music-on-demand features, you'll need to sign up for a subscription. With Slacker Radio Plus ($3.99 per month), you'll be able to save station caches for later listening even when offline. With a Slacker Premium subscription ($9.99/month), you'll get on-demand music listening so you can search for and listen to the exact songs and albums you want. Both subscription packages also come with lyrics for most songs.
Slacker Radio is a solid choice for streaming music with an enormous music library, and even with just the free app, you can create and listen to radio stations of your favorite genres of music. If you want a new streaming-radio option, Slacker is a great choice.
iHeartRadio (free - iOS|Android) is an old favorite of mine that lets you stream radio from over 1,500 live radio stations or create custom stations based on a song or artist. The best thing about it, though, is that your custom stations are completely ad-free.
Live radio stations from all over the U.S. are available, including everything from pop, country, rock, electronic, and urban, to talk and college stations. You can browse by genre or location and listen to music until you hit a song you don't like, then hit the Scan button to move on to another radio station (no matter the location) that offers similar music. If you like a particular station, you can save it to listen to again later.
Creating custom stations is incredibly easy as well. Just pick a song or artist and iHeartRadio assembles a playlist from a library of more than 15 million songs and 400,000 artists. When you're listening to a song, the app has a feature called the Discovery Tuner that lets you set how much lesser-known music is included in your station. That means you can just hear the hits most everyone knows, or you can hear music that's not so mainstream, and the controls are always available for you to switch. There's also a skip button (with no limitations) so you can move on to the next song whenever you want.
With iHeartRadio, you won't be able to choose your song directly (the way you can with a subscription to Slacker), but you do get features the other apps don't offer for free. While a song is playing, there's a button onscreen that lets you create a new custom station, view the artist's bio, view the song's lyrics, and buy the song from iTunes. A recent update to the app also lets you set a sleep timer so you can listen to your favorite station and have it turn off after a preselected period of time.
iHeartRadio is not new to the App Store, but what started out as a strong streaming-radio app has only gotten better over time. If you want an excellent streaming-radio app and don't mind not being able to pick songs directly, iHeartRadio is a great choice.