NPR has rolled out a rather hefty update to its venerable and well-liked iPad app. As before, the app is kind of a digital magazine that mirrors the content mix on NPR, with world and U.S. news, the arts and music features.
The iPad app is more fully featured than the NPR app for the iPhone, which contains mainly news. NPR does have a separate music app for the iPhone. You can listen to any NPR station live, and also access dozens of NPR programs like Car Talk, All Things Considered and Fresh Air on demand. Programs play in the background, so you can exit the app and use your iPad while still listening to the content of your choice. The app has an AirPlay icon, but it was dimmed. I'm not sure what is going on there. My other AirPlay-enabled apps worked fine, and I can find no settings on the NPR app that will turn the feature on.
In terms of the user interface, I think the improvements are positive. Getting access to the hourly newscast is just one click away, and listening to local stations and NPR programs is just two clicks. The app can access your location, if you allow it, and display the closest NPR stations to where you are. The programming list has been cleaned up and programs can now be sorted by topic and title. The ability to make playlists has been retained. Audio playback now has a 30-second rewind feature, and NPR says the app is more stable. I didn't see any issues in about an hour of use.
I've always liked the NPR app on both the iPhone and iPad. This update has cleaned up the user interface quite a bit, and added some new features that are worthwhile. Other than the malfunctioning AirPlay button, NPR for iPad is a good, free upgrade for news and arts junkies.