Developer: NormSoft
Price: $6.99
Version Reviewed: 5.4.0

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★★½

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

I don’t know when the last time I listened to a radio was. A week? A month? It’s kind of hard to find good stations where I live. That’s why I like CD’s for the car. But my interest was sparked by the description of Pocket Tunes Radio. Sure, there are other streaming radio apps—but this one looked good. Maybe I’d finally find a station I liked.

IMG_0145Pocket Tunes has surpassed most of my expectations. The interface is slick, and it sports an impressive array of features: a Safari work-around that allows background streaming, song recording, a built-in web browser, and more. The library of available stations is broad enough to appeal to most listeners; it even includes support for Sirius and XM radio! The bottom line: this app works, and it works beautifully.

Selecting a station is the first order of business. Groups (genres, essentially) include your basic Country/Rock/Indie/Pop/Classical and so on, but there are also groups for featured stations, “top stations,” college stations, and Hi Speed Network stations, among others. You can also find stations based on your location. Opening a group allows you to see the stations contained inside it; while there are many easily recognizable names, others are just an anonymous serving of alphabet soup. In any case, with 16,000 streams, you should be able to find something you like. Navigating to a station from the web is also possible.

The best part about the station listing, though: you can hide groups entirely, which helps declutter your list. Considering the massive number of stations and genres available, this feature is a godsend, and just one of many examples of the attention to detail in Pocket Tunes Radio.

IMG_0146Song playback works flawlessly over WiFi, and while I couldn’t test it over a network (I have an iPod Touch), others have reported decent quality on 3G, with occasional problems over EDGE. Some radio stations offer multiple quality levels, and Pocket Tunes then chooses one based on your connection, though you can switch to a different stream manually. Sound quality is solid, though obviously compressed, but it works for everyday listening if you’re not an audiophile.

While a song is playing, you can add the station to your favorites, search for the song on iTunes, or…best of all…you can record it by tapping the red button at the bottom of the screen. Nice! The recording feature works great, though it’s completely manual; if you come into a song five seconds late, for example, you’ve missed that part for good. Recorded songs are stored in the app, so unfortunately there’s no way to grab them.

You can also browse the web while a song is playing. This is used both to open web-based radio stations and to allow you to continue semi-normal activities whilst listening to music, since Apple still won’t allow background processes. Better still: if you want to do something other than browsing the web (like, say, playing a game or checking your mail), Pocket Tunes uses what amounts to a Safari hack that allows the music to play in the background. The background-process restriction doesn’t apply to Safari, so the app opens a Quicktime stream. Long story short: Pocket Tunes does it for you and then you close Safari and go about your business. This 3.0-exclusive workaround isn’t perfect, and I’m not sure if it works for all stations, but it’s a nice feature.

I could go on and on about the minutiae of Pocket Tunes Radio, but let it be enough that it’s a slick, speedy radio app with a massive selection of stations and some great features like recording and background playback. Yes, there are other offerings on the store, and I haven’t tried them all, but Pocket Tunes leaves you wanting little, and best of all, it just works. For $6.99, this app is worth it.

Posted in: iPhone Apps and Games, Music, Reviews

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