By Michael Warshaw
There was a time, decades ago, when it was a thrill to stay up late at night with the old family radio, listening to distant voices through crackling static.
If only we had smartphones in those days, and the TuneIn Radio app.
TuneIn is, very simply, an Internet radio app that boasts access to at least 50,000 on-air and Internet radio stations, not to mention program feeds and podcasts. But what makes this app so valuable is how easy it is to find the music, talk show, station, or stream that you want to listen to.
The TuneIn search function accepts radio station call signs, song titles, artist names, even sports teams. Search "Beatles," and you get hundreds of radio stations that are playing Beatles' tunes at that very moment. Search "Red Sox," and you get not only the game (if they’re playing when you search), but also sports talk and other associated programs.
Or you can browse the selections. TuneIn organizes stations and shows in categories like Talk, Sports, and different genres of music. It’s easy to set up pre-set buttons, so you can come back to favorite stations or programs without a lot of fuss.
Enable the location features, and the app knows where you are and can present a list of local stations. Or if you’re listening to something you kind of like and want to know what similar offerings may be out there, you can shake your phone and TuneIn will find a station that might interest you, but which you may never have found on your own.
There’s even a recording feature, so you can store shows or songs you like and enjoy them later. That’s one ability that’s not available on the free version of TuneIn, and it makes buying the paid app completely worthwhile.
TuneIn requires an Internet connection. I’ve used the app on a Palm Pre (I know, I know) and the newest version of Apple’s iPhone. No question about it: the iPhone delivered the better experience, partly because the Palm was on Sprint’s 3G network, and the iPhone was connected to the speedier AT&T 4G cellular signal. Yet I find the very best results – smooth streaming, quick loading – come when the device is connected to a good WiFi Internet signal. Your results may vary.
TuneIn is one of those apps with such a wide range of functions, you may never use them all. But you’ll never need to wait up until the wee hours to hear the radio you want, no matter where you are.