By Nate Adcock on Fri, 11/13/2009
I’m a radio-aholic. I have XM satellite radio in my car, and stream Pandora at work. I stream FM Radio from a receiver in the upstairs of my house, I'm so geekified! With the major bump in bandwidth many households now enjoy via high-speed internet access, streaming is an easy way to enjoy the latest tunes, TV, or video all via your computer (or iPhone/iPod as it were). There are a ton of stations out there, and Pocket Tunes brings them all together, so read the rest of the review and comment here for a chance to win this excellent program for your very own, as our giveaway ends tomorrow night!
Note: If you are just here for the contest, you can skip down to the end where the rules are, but the short version is that you need to post a comment on “streaming” before the deadline…
You can see my review of the free FStream here. FStream is a similar app, but with less features. Streaming noobs probably go to a site like radio-locator and try to search out stations (and enter the URLs manually, etc). Uhhh, can you say lame? Dude, that’s why you bought an iPhone or a touch! To not have to do things the lame way anymore. Services/Apps like Pandora, FStream, and now Pocket Tunes are revolutionizing finding, listening, purchasing, and now even recording live streaming content. Pocket Tunes takes this to the next level for your iPhone allowing you to record streams in the same compressed formats they are streaming in. I’m a little disappointed that it doesn’t support recording ogg streams, which I like to use (the live radio I mentioned before). FStream certainly gets bonus points on this point.
The app opens and straightaway updates the latest station list (in this regard FStream is quicker starting). Just about every genre from country to hip-hop is covered by the groups in the database. The app groups the stations into genres, though some stream sections have their own groups (XM, Sirius streams, etc.). You can add your own custom groups as well, and then assign stations to them. It would be neat if you could create groups of stations directly from the search list, but I did not see an obvious way to do this.
Once you have filtered down to the station you wish to listen to, simply tap it and it will starting playing in the “Now Playing” screen. You can search within groups for stations, or use the iTunes integrated search (middle button). A leetle enhancement might be to have the player remember your last station listened to, and return to that screen on startup (and auto-start the last station again).
The player buttons are pretty standard (select center “play” and tap again to pause)-- looking very much like standard player controls, and the interface is nicely laid out in a general sense. In the main player display, you’ll find plenty o’ room for the mini-scrollable station list, which enables you to select/play stations on the fly. You can play/pause a stream, and you can also record a stream while it’s playing (only mp3, wma, and aac are currently supported). You cannot time-shift a live stream in any fashion that I could find. You can quickly save a playing station to your favs by selecting the star icon to the left of the player buttons.
The forward and back buttons will take you to the next or previous stream channel in the player window. The “CD under the magnifying glass” icon next to the main player controls will take you to the Search screen, and initiate an iTunes database search for the artist in question. You can further follow the link to iTunes to actually purchase music, etc (though this unfortunately kills the stream).
FStream has a time-shift mode option, but I am still not positive what this really does during live stream sessions. It seems to me that both players resume playback at the point you stopped the stream (since it is buffered, this makes sense). With Pocket Tunes, you can time shift a recorded stream on playback, but not while playing (you can jump forward/back several seconds at a time). A cool feature here would be the addition of a time slider while the live playback and record was actually occurring so that you could drag the time slider back to a previous portion of the stream (without having to go open your recordings separately).
The player also integrates with streaming satellite radio online services like XM, though you need to go through safari to authenticate, etc. (a safari plug-in screen is available for this purpose). The home screen offers links to various added features, and a helpful knowledge base. The web screen is the only screen that will rotate to landscape mode, which can be a bummer if you need to hand enter a stream URL in cramped portrait view…
I think both FStream and Pocket Tunes get the job done, but I have to give overall polish and iPhone integration points/features to Pocket Tunes. I had a minor error probably caused by bringing the app up too quickly after unlocking my unit (probably starting my net connection back after sleep). Pocket Tunes reported a socket error in this one case while loading the library, but otherwise worked fine. I have to give PT another honorable mention for it’s ability to play streams in the background. You can select the background playback mode in the main player screen, which then launches a QuickTime player connection in Safari to the stream file. This way you can do other things on your phone while listening. Pocket Tunes also supports high fidelity aac+ v2, but you have to purchase a separate $3 codec to support it (uh, note to NormSoft)--paying for a codec for a player you just paid $6.99 for is kind of a downer, guys. I give PT one thumbs up for the features, and one down for paying extra to play back music at a higher quality. Still, if you are a radio nut like me, I encourage you to check it out on the app store or by going here… Now for the contest specifics… See rules below:
Contest Rules: Winners are chosen at random. You must comment on this post (or related posts), and within the scope of the topic in a relevant manner (spamlike, one-word or off-topic posts will be deleted, of course) before the deadline (Nov 14, 2009, 11PM EST). I reserve the right to determine what is considered relevant and will make final judgments concerning comments and winners. Inappropriate content will be removed. Winners are asked to post a short review here in comments and in iTunes after using the software. iPhoneLife.com is not responsible in any fashion for services promised under this contest.