Developer: Public Radio Exchange (PRX)
Price: 0.00 (FREE)
Version Reviewed: 1.2

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use Value Rating: ★★★★☆
Sound Quality Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

I remember when, for my last birthday, I got an iPod dock from my brother. My iPod was off being repaired, but the dock could use a built-in radio as the alarm, too. What the heck, I thought; I’ll try using it instead of my cell. I fiddled with the tuner until I found NPR (I hate waking up to blaring music) and went to sleep. The next morning, I was jolted from my bed by the roar of some obnoxious music noise—being an idiot, I had forgotten that our local NPR station only broadcasted for a few hours at a time.

img_00183Such is the temperamental nature of radio stations when you live in the middle of nowhere.

I wish that I had my iPod with me at the time. More importantly, I wish that I had discovered the Public Radio Tuner app sooner! Granted, it can’t be used as an alarm. But what it does do is give me access to the NPR programs that I’m used to—and better yet, it’s not limited by my location. The Public Radio Tuner includes an index of stations from across the country, so you can sample news from nearly every major city in the USA. Talk about freedom of choice!

The Public Radio Tuner is internet-based, so if you’re using a cellular connection, you may experience some difficulties. (The new version, released recently, pledges to address these issues.) As an iPod Touch owner, I was naturally bound to a WiFi connection. I was pleasantly pleased with the results. The sound quality was great, and I always find public radio enjoyable.

img_00202The first step is picking out a station. The main interface is a state-sorted list of all of the available public radio stations. Unfortunately, there were only two stations listed from my home state of Maryland, but other states have an enormous amount of variety—New York has twenty-seven! This variety is part of what makes the app valuable. I could sample classical music from a dozen different stations across the country, or I could hear different takes on the standard news feed by swapping between Alaska and Ohio. Sometimes, a lot of the stations have the same basic program, but it’s still nice to have the options. You can search by city or station name, or you can ask the app to find the geographically closest station. Stations can be added to a favorites list for easy access. The interface is very clean, and everything works as it should.

img_000119That’s about all that the app does, but it’s still a very valuable option. I mentioned reports of iPhone troubles earlier, but the latest release adds stability for cellular connections. Ideally, you could hook your iPhone up to your car’s speaker system and listen to NPR regardless of where you happened to be driving! Besides stability (which is obviously a major function of apps like this), I’d like to be able to see the name of the program I’m listening to. I don’t know how feasible it is, but it would be nice to see the name of the musical selection playing, for example, instead of just the station name.

If you’re a fan of public radio programs, you should definitely give this one a try. It’s a simple app, but it’s effective at what it sets out to do: pulling the nation’s vast catalog of public radio stations into the palm of your hand. (If you want “ordinary” radio stations, though, you’ll be out of luck.)

It should be noted that you want the Public Radio Tuner – NEW!, not the Public Radio Tuner. The app has switched developers, technically, though it’s still the same group behind the app. Updates (such as the recent stability-improving one) will only be delivered to the NEW version.

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