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Second look: Public Radio Tuner for iPhone

Mel Martin

American Public Radio has updated and improved its free app for listening to public radio streams on the iPhone/iPod touch. We had a look at the first version in early December, and the criticisms Megan Lavey noted in her review have been addressed.

Public Radio Tuner
[app store link] has access to more than 200 streams from stations around the country. With this 1.1 update, this version starts up faster, works better over the slower EDGE network, and you can now search for your favorite station by call letters, frequency, city, region or format.

The app now uses location services to find stations that are near you, which is great if you are traveling.

Here are some things I'd like to see in the next version. Most important would be to have stations grouped by category. As it is now you can use the search tool and input a keyword like 'jazz' to get a list of stations with that format. I'd rather see some buttons that let me get this information without typing.

Another welcome fix would be web links. Each station page has the web URL to the station, but it is not click-able. I know you'd lose the stream if you bring up Safari, but the developers could have browser access from within the app as some others have done. Even better, Apple should fix the restriction in the iPhone OS that won't allow multitasking for 3rd party programs.

A spokesperson for the Public Radio Exchange, which is behind the app, tells me a May update will include program guide information. It will also allow listeners to get on-demand content, which is a big plus. And they say they are working on integrating a web browser. Yippee!

Not all Public Radio Stations are going to be found with this app. All stations were asked to contribute, but some don't stream, and others didn't want to participate.

The new features in Public Radio Tuner are most welcome, and I expect to be using it quite a bit. Give it a try and see if it fits your needs for music and talk that goes beyond the usual commercial radio fare.

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