written by: Mitty Chang•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 5/30/2011
With over a dozen radio apps for the iPhone to choose from, which one is the best for you? This article takes an in-depth review of several free radio apps for the iPhone and gives you a comparison to determine which one is the best iPhone app for FM radio with HD, and some standard versions too.
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Effortless, convenient, and on the spot. Those are three qualities that every person expects from their fm radio when they tune in to a standard or hd station. Effortless and convenient ,because when you are on the go or sitting at home, you are not expecting to have to fumble with more than a power switch and a station dial changer, and on the spot because you want the right music to fit your mood.
Therefore these are the three categories that I structured the ratings of these six iPhone apps for FM Radio with HD. There are standard radio options included in many of these apps too.
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I chose to focus this review article on free radio apps, because people expect radio to be free. I chose the top radio iPhone apps that were most relevant and had the best reviews: AOL Radio, Radio.com, Public Radio, NPR Music, NPR News, Pandora, and LastFM.
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AOL Radio & Radio.com
When I initially downloaded the apps for AOL Radio and Radio.com, I thought they were two completely different apps. I discovered, to my surprise, that AOL Radio is powered by Radio.com and essentially is the Radio.com app rebranded with the AOL logo. Other than the cosmetic appearance, it is the same app, and as such for the purposes of this review we will treat it as the same app. Radio.com puts together a great app for radio stations across the nation to adopt and stream their feeds to. The app itself is multi-tasking friendly, and also works well with the music control features of the iPhone. You can choose between different genres of music or even local stations throughout the nation that are partnered with Radio.com. The app also remembers songs you bookmark for easy access later, if you want to download it at another time. Overall, this is a pretty solid radio app, especially if your favorite station is partnered with Radio.com.
U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) provides phenomenal news and editorial stories on everything from current events to cooking series. That same award-winning content is available for iPhone users through the NPR News app, which is multi-tasking friendly, and is controllable through the built-in music controls. These stories are listed by program, and the app features a playlist and station option for you to customize your feeds with the programs you want. NPR Music app provides users with a variety of NPR music genres ranging from classic jazz blues to country.
Public Radio features a variety of public radio stations throughout the entire United States, including a few NPR channels. This app is multi-tasking friendly and allows for music controls. Unfortunately the content selection is very limited. Otherwise the app itself is functional and usable.
Pandora is a free Internet radio service, that allows you to create stations based on an artist or song that you put in. Pandora is the only app that I am awarding a five star rating to, because their entire radio app for iPhone is not only multi-tasking and music control friendly, but also works well with AirPlay, and is regularly updated.
With the advancement of the iPhone and its multi-tasking abilities, Pandora has really become a portable personal radio station that is both convenient and effortless. Best of all, is that the service is completely free with only a short ad showing up every 30 minutes. Users who upgrade to the premium service can skip the ads entirely. Pandora is a great, smart way to listen to music you enjoy on the go, without needing a large MP3 library. I highly recommend that you give Pandora a try. The Pandora app for iPhone also features bookmark options for you to easily purchase songs you enjoy.
LastFM is a free online service that tracks what you listen to, and suggests new music based off of your music libraries. It is a great way to find new artists and songs that you might love. LastFM’s iPhone App also sports a radio feature. This radio, similar to Pandora, creates smart radio stations based off of your playlists, or the playlists of your LastFM friends. The player itself looks clean-cut and allows for background playing while you are multitasking. It sports a “like" icon, info icon, and the skip option.
There are three major downsides to LastFM. The first is that the radio feature does not properly integrate with the music control features of the iPhone, as pausing or stopping it will require you to start it back up from the actual app. The second is that the app itself freezes for about three to five seconds whenever it loads a new radio library. The third is that only the first fifty tracks are free, as LastFM has made their radio service an option for premium users only.
The reason why LastFM still made the cut into this review article is because despite being ultimately a paid service, LastFM still sports a great free service for music fanatics looking to find similar music to what they already know and love. The app itself is free, and I encourage users to take advantage of their free music recommendation services.
With dozens of radio apps for iPhone available in iTunes, there is an app for every category of music lover to love. As mobile technology in the iPhone continues to advance, radio apps are becoming more powerful and rich in features.
It is this opinion of this writer that almost a year on from Bright Hub’s previous review on the best iPhone radio apps, Pandora still rocks the top in its place as the best free radio app for iPhone out there. The development team at Pandora continues to provide regular updates for its iPhone app, churning out a feature-rich radio app that creates free, custom tailored radio for you wherever you go.
Now, get out there so you can enjoy consistent musical freedom to your hearts content, even when you are traveling on a cross-country roadtrip.