Top 5 radio apps for Android
Whether you've a Nexus 7, a Galaxy S5 or even a Kindle Fire, here's a great way of turning your £200 tablet or £300 phone into a £5 wireless with the best radio apps
Android is quickly gaining on iOS to become the radio lover's ideal operating system. With the lower prices of Android hardware, I predict that Android's growth will continue. I've picked five of the best Android apps for radio lovers across the UK so you've something fun to listen to.
(Of note: I've deliberately not chosen station-specific apps. Some of these are great, too, but that's for another day.)
Free, Pro version £2.38
TuneIn Radio contains over 70,000 radio stations from all over the globe, and on-demand content too. It contains alternative streaming addresses to allow rock-solid reception or top quality audio. Its database is the most up-to-date I can find, too.
TuneIn isn't that good at UK radio, though, making its US background clear. BBC local radio stations are marked as 'community', FM frequencies for national stations like BBC Radio 1 are seemingly picked at random, and I can't quite believe that Absolute Radio wants to promote their 1215kHz frequency over all else.
A rewrite in the first half of 2014, bringing a social network element to TuneIn, has not been well-received. Many radio stations report a dramatic drop in listeners following the redesign. However, this is a best of breed app for a global radio listener. There's a paid-for version which offers recording.
An official app allowing access to all UK radio stations. Where TuneIn fails, Radioplayer works - with accurate data and unparallelled information that accurately knows your local stations and recommends new stuff to listen to, based on local area and trending stations. The Android version lacks, as yet, all the BBC's on-demand content. A mid-2014 update has dramatically improved the look and feel of the app, and made it more natively Android in its design. It is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and accurate service for UK radio.
A reliable podcast-catcher that works offline, Pocket Casts is a well-written and fully-featured app, including commercial skipping, playback of video podcasts (including, to save your battery, playback of video podcasts in audio-only form), and a host of other extras. It has a decent catalogue of podcasts, with the ability to add new podcasts yourself. Regularly updated, Pocket Casts also works well with Chromecast and Android Wear, and sports a well-edited section for discovery of new podcasts to listen-to. It also syncs across different devices, so you never hear the same podcast twice.
Peculiarly-named app - because it has access to all of NPR's programming (not just news) in chapterised form - so you can listen to individual stories, as well as segments of full programmes (or, indeed, those programmes in full). Grab each chapter and playlist them, so you can create your own bizarrely-intonated NPR station. This is a much better way of enjoying radio than, for example, an unyielding lump of 3 hours of BBC Radio 4's Today programme on iPlayer. The app also includes music and arts programming (including Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (aka The News Quiz), and Radiolab (aka The Best Show On Earth), along with Cartalk and TED Radio. Oh, and it also includes all NPR station live feeds too. BBC? This is how to do a radio app.
Player FM lets you follow topics, not shows - with a carefully curated podcast service that surfaces new radio shows for you. A companion to a fully-featured website, this app is regularly updated, and works well with Chromecast and Android Wear. I found it a confusing experience, and one that rejoiced in playing me multiple episodes of the same podcast back-to-back; but it's an interesting tool, if you can learn the user interface, to discover new and interesting podcasts.
There are plenty more to choose from: and I'd love to hear your favourites, too.