onsdag 24. februar 2010

Spark Radio launches for iPhone, brings radio and the Internet together at last

By now, most radio stations have started broadcasting online, meaning you can listen from anywhere you’ve got an Internet connection. For whatever reason, though, that fantastic feature hasn’t really found its way to where we normally listen to the radio — in the car or in our living room.
But now Spark Radio, a brand new $6 app in the iPhone App Store, is bringing the advantages of radio and the Internet together to make one killer music app.
It’s essentially a collection of Internet radio stations from all over the world – more than 10,000 for now; and the company promises to have 30,000 by April — all available on your iPhone. Since all the stations are accessible over the Web, they’re not reliant on the frequently subpar radio signals, and can be accessed from anywhere via your iPhone via Wi-Fi or 3G (or iPod Touch, but only Wi-Fi).
That means that I can listen to KSCS country in Fort Worth, Texas, as I sit in my apartment in New York. The app is the result of collaboration between iPhone developer Handcast and RadioTime, a company providing radio content and tools.
Stations are organized by genres and categories, with all the radio staples represented – music, talk, sports, and more. Since you’re not stuck with the local options, the stations you want are always available — if you want to listen to the game, but you’re stuck in your car, well, you listen to the game. Listening to something on NPR, and don’t want to keep looking for the local NPR affiliate? Stick with yours, as long as you want.
Spark Radio also has a great GPS feature. It can figure out where you are and then display the stations near you. The advantage here is that the quality tends to be higher than the radio signals, and there’s no hunting through static to find the real stations. You can also check to see recent songs or programming on a given station, to see if it’s a good station for you.
Frequent radio listeners will like the ability to save stations as their favorites. There’s also a fully-baked Web browser right within the app, somewhat solving the multitasking problem so many iPhone users have – if you need to look something up, but still want to listen to the radio, you can do it right from within Spark Radio.
There are other features, like some social networking abilities and visual animations to accompany the music, but I find those mostly unnecessary. Plus, if you’re driving and listening to the radio, cool animations might not be such a good thing.
The only real problem I ran into in my testing of the app was that when I didn’t touch the screen for a while, the screen would shut off and the station would stop playing. After some hunting, I found an easy fix: go to “Settings” and drag the “screen sleep delay” slider all the way to the infinity symbol. You’ll want to keep your iPhone plugged in if you’re using it like this, but it’ll play until the battery dies.
As much as I love radio, and the NPR and pop music that come along with it, it can be a pain, especially during long trips, to constantly be hunting for good stations. Thanks to Spark Radio, those days are now behind me.

Companies: Handcast, Spark Radio

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