Everything you'll ever need to know about listening to radio on the iPhone - Part II


4. The comparison and feature chart

As with all of my all-in-one roundups, your best friend will be the comparison and feature chart (click the link!), which has all the important benchmark and comparison data you’ll ever need in a neatly tabulated fashion to make it much easier to compare different radio players to each other (and to greatly save space by eliminating the need to repeat the same introduction [e.g., “As far as MP3 compliance and battery use is concerned, …” repeated for each and every reviewed app). Make sure you open it in a maximized Web browser window. You may also want to make the character size smaller (Ctrl or Shift and the - sign on the keyboard or Ctrl + the wheel on your mouse.)

Also, don’t forget the chart in itself is a collection of mini-tutorials. For example, should you want to know how you can enter the data of a new stream, simply navigate to the “Adding your own stations?” row and check out where you can find this functionality for each client, describing what exactly you need to tap, what menu items to select etc. Pretty cool, eh?

Below, I provide you with a thorough explanation of what each row means and how the reviewed apps compare to each other in all these tests. While the aim of this is explaining what each row stands for and how the results should be scrutinized, I also provide some insight to the results. Nevertheless, note that, over time, the chart will evolve, unlike this very text here. As with all my other roundups, when a new version of an application is released, I only post an separate update to my previous article but don’t modify the original text so that I don’t force readers of the original version to re-read the entire, sometimes 50-100 kchar-long article to see the changes. I, however, always update the chart, and, of course, you will also find the explanation of the changes in the UPDATE sections posted after the original article.

So, let’s take a look at what each row means.

First, the Price. If one wants to base his or her selection only on price (but not other features like metadata support or timr-shifting), FStream comes out as the best. ooTunes, which isn’t particularly expensive either, comes out as second – as long as you don’t need OGG, HE-AACv2, time-shifting (with rewind – remember, ooTunes does support time-shifting in that it starts recording the stream when you tap Pause so that, when you resume playback, it can play back the recorded stream from where you paused it) or recording. I consider Pocket Tunes Radio the third when it comes to price-value ratio. It’s expensive but is still a very decent app, particularly on a non-jailbroken device if you do want to use a more or less decent (meaning at least Landscape support) browser. Nevertheless, don’t forget if you have an MP3 or an AAC-LC (not HE-AACv2!) stream, you can also use ooTunes’ (forthcoming) ability to play it back in the background and, then, you can run any third-party browsers (including the best, iCab Mobile), which are way better than the one in Pocket Tunes.

The traditional, “old” apps (Wunder Radio and Tuner) are a bit too expensive to my liking now that there’s also Pocket Tunes, FStream and ooTunes. I wouldn’t go for Tuner2 either: I’m not sure if it indeed delivers better HE-AACv2 audio quality than Pocket Tunes or FStream. In my opinion, the latter don’t sound bad either. (Possible) audio quality advantage aside (again, I’m not sure whether the developers’ claim is true in this respect), the only real advantage it has over Pocket Tunes and FStream is the support of album art.

The Supported formats group elaborates on the currently iPhone-compatible streaming radio formats (everything except RealAudio / RealOne) and lists the compatilility of each client (+ means compatible, - means not compatible). On top of that, I also elaborate on the CPU usage (see the next paragraph on “Benchmark”) and the total power usage figures.

The former have been measured by the commercial ($1) AppStore app “Benchmark” running on a jailbroken iPhone. I’ve backgrounded the radio client (with Backgrounder) and run Benchmark in the foreground. I’ve, in general, made at least two or three different benchmarks to get as exact results as possible. I paid special attention to run the tests in exactly the same circumstances (the same stream etc.) for every client. Note that the higher the figure, the less CPU the radio player uses. That is, to get the traditional CPU usage figures, make sure you distract the given figures from 100.

Nevertheless, CPU usage figures, as opposed to other mobile platforms like Windows Mobile, are only one side of the coin. This means a radio client with a higher CPU usage don’t necessarily consume more power and vice versa. Actually, I’ve only measured much higher battery use with two apps (ooTunes in MP3 playback and Wunder Radio in WMA mode) that clearly correspond to the higher CPU use. In the other cases, the relationship between CPU use and power consumption was almost impossible to notice. Nevertheless, if you plan to use Backgrounder on your phone and listen to radio stations in the background while doing something else, you will want to choose an app that has the least CPU usage; then, the CPU usage results will count and there will be even a difference between a player that only takes 10% CPU (90% benchmark in the chart) and 20% (80% in the chart). To see this in person, I really recommend giving the current (that is, still non-fixed) version of ooTunes a try with an MP3 stream with metadata. If you try to do anything else while it's backgrounded, the phone will be VERY sluggish and slow to respond. Not so with the, CPU usage-wise, probably best app, Pocket Tunes Radio.

The latter (the former being "Benchmark" results explained above) power consumption measurements have all been conducted under exactly the same circumstances:

- over Wi-Fi (to minimize power usage – again, Wi-Fi is much easier on the batteries than even 2.(7)5G, let alone 3G; in all cases assuming excellent signal strength)

- I’ve removed the SIM card so that hunting for networks, switching between them, keeping up the connection etc. doesn’t take any additional power

- I’ve put the phone in all cases to the same distance from the Wi-Fi router and set exactly the same volume

- I’ve disabled push notifications and, in general, completely reset the device before each test

- I’ve always started with the battery topped to 100% so that the unlinearity (because of the somewhat lower voltage of the battery) doesn’t produce false results

- I’ve run at least one-hour-long tests (in cases, with less apps using less battery, even longer) to make the benchmarks as exact as possible. During this, I’ve constantly monitored playback to be absolutely sure it was flawless. Also, from time to time, I’ve pressed the Home button to reset the 30-minute countdown (the iPhone stops the network access of all processes run in suspended state)

- I’ve always pressed the power/suspend button right after starting the measurement process.

The results are pretty easy to decode; for example, 0.1%/minute means the battery level decreases 0.1% each minute; that is, 1% in 10 minutes and 6% in an hour.

Note that I’ve made several tests (taking a LOT of time). The results can be considerably different. Nevertheless, it’s pretty easy to count an average of them. Based on this, you can see MP3-playback wise all players behave pretty similar (here, I refer to the future, fixed version of ooTunes, not the currently one with the considerably higher battery consumption!)

Note that all tests have been conducted on an iPhone 3G. I'll repeat all these tests on the 3G S as soon as I get it - hopefully in a few days (T-Mobile, hurry up!).

HE-AACv2 (direct AAC example HERE; more links HERE): Few radio clients support the most advanced and data use-friendly streaming format, HE-AACv2: FStream, Pocket Tunes Radio and Tuner2. As you can see, of the three, FStream and Pocket Tunes Radio are almost equally easy on the battery; Tuner2, on the other hand, consumes considerably more power.

AAC-LC: this is the standard AAC format used by some radio stations, with the majority of them still preferring the much more data use-friendly HE-AACv2. Therefore, I didn’t really bother measuring the battery life of them, except for the built-in QuickTime.

MP3: 128k stream with metadata: with MP3, I’ve run sometimes several tests, mostly because some clients behave definitely differently when listening to either faster streams or ones with constantly updated metadata (that is, additional data delivering e.g. the title and the artist of the song etc.)

The test I’ve elaborated on in this row was a 128k stream also having metadata. As can you see, the power consumption playing this stream resulted in is considerably higher than with most other (test) streams or formats. The difference is most prevalent with the current, 2.1.0 version of ooTunes, where the difference is about two-fold. (Note that there is much less pronounced difference in the forthcoming, much more battery-friendly version. In the chart, I refer to it as “new version”. As you can see, the new version consumes about three times (!!!) less power than the currently available one in the AppStore.)

MP3: live365 streams without metadata : I’ve only run two tests with these two streams because they’ve become unavailable during the tests. This is why I, then, switched to Radio Pilatus in the meantime and re-run the tests with them. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, I also provide you with these results.

MP3: 64k stream “Radio Pilatus” without metadata: as you can see, all radio players could play back this stream with battery usage between 0.1 and 0.2%/minute.

OGG: OGG (which is a less-used format, mainly among independent or smaller radio startions in addition to MP3 – or, in Finland, exclusively to broadcast summer services and other church ceremonials) is only supported by two radio apps right now, FStream and Pocket Tunes Radio. Both deliver excellent results when playing back OGG streams; considerably better ones than with MP3.

WMA: WMA is, as has already been explained, (in many cases, exclusively) used by several state radio broadcasters (BBC, the Finnish YLE etc.) Fortunately, while the iPhone itself isn’t able to play back WMA streams, some of the third-party apps are; they include the most recommended ones: FStream, Pocket Tunes and ooTunes. They all play back WMA streams with the same battery use. Not so the (otherwise, less recommended) Wunder Radio. Refrain from using it to listen to WMA streams!

The next group, Directory, favorites, elaborates on the extensiveness of the built-in station list and how favorites / bookmarks are handled.

The three first rows, Radio station directory: Finnish?, Live365 hits and “ogg” hits show the number of hits of the words “Finnish” and “Finland”, “Live365” (which is a well-known streamer service) and “ogg”. The latter has not only hits with ogg streams, but also existing station names like “Froggy”. The higher the numbers, the more hits I’ve found. I could only run these in radio clients supporting directory search; that is, not in the, in this respect, also failing allRadio 1.0.1.

As you can see, ooTunes has by far the best station directory, followed by Wunder Radio. The other players, more or less, are all based on the standard AAC+/MP3 SHOUTcast directory; this is why they don’t, for example, include the WMA-only Finnish state radio broadcasts.

Search?: here, I’ve elaborated on whether you can search the directory. As has already been stated, it’s only the low-end allRadio 1.0.1 that doesn’t support this important feature.

Notable problems?: some notable problems related to this question.

Adding your own stations?: it’s of special importance to be able to add your own stations, should the predefined directories not contain them. Here, I’ve elaborated on whether doing this is at all supported and, if it is, how this is done.

Editing favorites?: in some cases, it might be important to edit your previously-added favorites. Deleting is the most important of these, but you may also want to rename them – or even to edit the URL itself. Reordering the list of the favorites can be important too if you have more than a handful of streams and, for example, want to collect your absolute favorites to the beginning of it so that you can quickly access them.

Unfortunately, very few radio applications offer full or at least partial editing support. In this regard, RadioBOX and FStream are the best, while ooTunes and Time-Shift Radio only allow for deleting. Finally, the also-recommended Pocket Tunes Radio supports full editing but not reorganizing.

Web interface for favorite management and the like?: some of the applications (currently, FStream and RadioBOX) allow for editing the favorite list from another computer. To use this feature, you’ll need to start the built-in Web server on your phone.

The Bluetooth group contains information on

1. whether AVRCP is supported (see the AVRCP? row). Unfortunately, you can only pause / resume the stream playback with the built-in QuickTime but not with any of the third-party players. This is in stark contrast with how multimedia players behave on all the other mobile smartphone platforms. (“Thanks”, Apple…)

That is, if you do want to pause / resume playback from your Bluetooth stereo headphones, you’ll need to stick to the pretty awkward and simple QuickTime (or an app – in the near future, ooTunes for sure – that can use it for playback).

2. and (see the In-app audio output swapping in A2DP mode? row) whether there’s a built-in way to quickly switch between A2DP (Stereo Bluetooth audio transfer) and the built-in speaker (of wired headphones) of the iPhone, as can be done in the built-in iPod application and in many other multimedia apps. Unfortunately, FStream, one of the most recommended apps, can’t; neither can Time-Shift Radio.

The Streaming over cellular group discusses everything you need to know about streaming over cellular (GPRS / EDGE / UMTS / HSDPA) connections. Remember, if you use these kinds of connections (as opposed to the most battery-friendly Wi-Fi), your iPhone is currently operating in 3G mode and battery life is important for you, you’ll want to carefully consider whether the current stream can be played back over your EDGE network (there may be EDGE networks not being able to even serve 128k streams) – or, if you only have GPRS (because of the very bad 2G coverage or your wireless operator doesn’t even have EDGE), go for extra low-speed streams (preferably, HE-AACv2; again, in that case, you’ll want to take a very close look at Moodio.fm, should your favorite stations lack direct HE-AACv2 streams.) Switching to 2G mode will result in at least two times better battery life.

Works over cellular connections?: As you can see, all the radio clients are able to operate over cellular connections. This means you don’t need to play with hacks (VoIPover3G; see THIS for more info) necessary to make VoIP apps like Skype, Fring and Nimbuzz and TV apps like netTV to work.

Limit cellular speed (don’t let faster streams played back)?: some of the apps allow for limiting the stream speed to automatically avoid the playback of faster streams to avoid high data bills. Here, I’ve elaborated on which apps support this.

Note: if you keep your eyes open, you won’t run into problems caused by this. Most directories also list the speed of all streams and/or also list them in either the main playback screen (e.g., Pocket Tunes Radio in the upper right corner or Tuner2 if you tap the button in the center right of the screen). It’s, however, really useful when you configure your player to switch between random streams (see “Random station selection?” at the bottom.) Then, it’d be very useful not to have to explicitly check whether the station the app has tuned in to is a fast one – the app does it for you.

The Song metadata group elaborates on a lot of subjects belonging to everything related to song metadata broadcast by many, mostly IceCast-based stations. Good metadata support can really enhance the usability of radio player applications; among other things, this is what makes ooTunes (together with FStream) the most recommended application. Unfortunately, Time-Shift Radio, which is (currently) the only app to offer timeshifting / rewinding, doesn’t support metadata at all.

Quick purchase of current song from iTunes?: many radio applications support the quick purchase of the currently playing song from iTunes store. That is, you don’t need to exit the player, start iTunes on your phone and manually enter the artist / title – all this is automatically done by the app. As you can see, all recommended third-party apps are capable of this, except for FStream, which has really simple metadata support. It does display the name of the artist and the song, but it does nothing else based on them (nevertheless, it’s still the most recommended player, along with ooTunes).

Lyrics: with lyricwiki.org (and a lot more lyrics websites), there is already a great database of song lyrics. Unfortunately, currently, only ooTunes makes advantage of this database and displays the lyrics automatically.

Note that if your radio player doesn’t support this, you can still go to lyricwiki.org (or any of the numerous, other sites) and can still manually enter the artist / title so that you can read it while the song is playing. It’s pretty time-consuming, though, and the song may actually reach its end before you manage to get to the song when you use this approach.

Twitter integration?: some of the clients also allow for posting quick messages to Twitter (and, in cases, Facebook) to announce what you’re listening to. Again, this can also be done with an external Twitter (Facebook) client, but with a lot more work (you have to manually fill in the data, while these apps do this automatically).

Album art?: as with lyrics, there’s a huge database of album art especially suited for dynamic lookup from radio clients supporting song metadata. Unfortunately, currently only two apps support them: the highly recommended ooTunes and Tuner2, which, as I’m not really sure it does deliver vastly superior HE-AACv2 audio quality compared to FStream and Pocket Tunes Radio (while it does consume considerably more power), remains in the group of apps with a not very good price-performance ratio.

Both apps are able to display album art full screen. (Earlier versions of ooTunes didn’t do this in full screen, which resulted in being listed in the “Cons” section of reviews.)

Similar stations / songs?: some apps display similar stations (independent of the current music being played); for example, Wunder Radio. This isn’t that revolutionary – after all, you can always group your stations based on genre. (If you don’t go for a catch-up “all” view or don’t use searching for station name.)

ooTunes takes this functionality much further. Based on last.FM, it looks up the songs closest to the current one – in addition to trying to find it over YouTube. It’s a really useful function. (See examples of this in the section “3.3 Oogli LLC’s ooTunes Radio”.)

The Built-in Web browser? group elaborates on the capabilities of the built-in Web browser (if any). First, it lists their capabilities in the first, exists? Capabilities? row. Please see my all-in-one web browser roundup if you want to see how they compare to other browsers, particularly the built-in Safari and the best 3rd party title, iCab Mobile.

As you can see, none of the current browsers offers tabs and only one (that of Pocket Tunes Radio) can be used in Landscape mode. Of course, as with other, third-party browsers, they are unable to access Safari’s favorites. This means if you do want to browse the Web while listening to radio at the same time, you’ll want to

- check out Pocket Tunes Radio first (assuming being able to browse the Web in Landscape mode is important for you)

- if you find the price tag of Pocket Tunes Radio too prohibitive and/or need something with more features (both Web browsing- and radio-wise), you’ll want to go for

a. either ooTunes (particularly now that it will receive background playback capabilities of MP3 and AAC-LC streams via the system-level QuickTime)

b. or jailbreaking your phone and installing Backgrounder.

After examining the standard Web browsing capabilities of these browsers (which is important for casual Web browsing not necessarily related to browsing radio station lists), I turn to directly invoking radio stations when you run into a page that links to them. To do this, I’ve created a list of them HERE, listing their type as well. Note that some of the stations may not (currently) work when you test them – for example, the first OGG link works only sometimes in the Summer. That is, if you plan to use these links for testing, always make sure they do work in, for example, VLC Player on the desktop.

I test all the major audio streaming formats, except for, of course, RealAudio / RealOne, which you need the $20 desktop server component of ooTunes for transcoding and playing, should you want to listen to them. (Fortunately, seeing the inherent problems of a closed format like this, more and more radio stations are switching to alternative streaming formats. For example, some years ago the Finnish broadcasting company exclusively used RealAudio. Now they’ve completely switched to the, on mobile platforms, way better supported WMA.)

As you can see, generally all built-in Web browsers are able to open streams from inside. The only exception is, currently, RadioBOX, which just doesn’t intercept any taps on any kind of multimedia links. Instead, all taps on audio stream links are all handed further for the built-in QuickTime. As not even Safari is invoked during this, but QuickTime directly, this all means you won’t even be able to send QuickTime in the background on a non-jailbroken phone (see Backgrounder). You can only do that when invoked from Safari.

Finally, the Other goodies group lists miscellaneous questions not fitting in other groups but not warranting creating a group on their own.

Being able to run in background w/o jailbreak & Backgrounder?: as has been explained several times in this roundup, only the built-in QuickTime (when opened from Safari) can be minimized on a device not jailbroken. This feature will be only made use by future versions of ooTunes in the background. Hope developers of other radio players will soon follow suit.

Recording stream?: the alternative smartphone platform, Windows Mobile (see for example THIS) has had support for digitally recording incoming streams. What is more, it does so in the original format, which greatly helps in reducing storage usage – as opposed to recording in the uncompressed 44 kHz 16 bit stereo format taking 176 kbyte a second. Of the iPhone radio apps, currently, only FStream supports this. Some other apps (including ooTunes) will receive capabilities like this in the future, though.

Time-shift: it’s nice to be able to being able to “rewind” the stream to be able to listen to some of the stuff again. Unfortunately, currently, only the otherwise pretty incapable Time-Shift Radio supports this. Some developers (including that of ooTunes) promised they’d implement this kind of functionality too.

Speaking of ooTunes, it does already have some kind of time-shifting capabilities: it’ll continue from where you’ve left off when you pause and, then, resume playback.

Listing the songs played on several stations at the same time: in section 3.3, I’ve already introduced ooTunes' unique and great feature, Radio RooLette, which alone makes ooTunes worth the price. I can only hope other radio clients implement something similar to make radio station selection much easier and funnier.

Finding local stations using GPS?: some of the applications request the actual location of your phone upon (re)starts and try to recommend / prefer local stations depending on this info. This not only works on iPhones with built-in GPS, but also first-generation ones with the only way of using cellular or Wi-Fi station identification and localization.

Wunder Radio’s approach is probably the best: it both presents a Local radio by GPS group under Stations and, in addition, it has a “Local stations” group under every genre, listing local stations (if any) at the top.

Random station selection?: you may want to quickly switch to a random station. This row elaborates on whether this is possible.

Listing all the bitrates on the same station (when available)?: as has been explained with Wunder Radio, it offers a unique shortcut for quickly switching to another stream (in a different format and/or streaming speed) of the same station when present – right from the main playback screen. Unfortunately, none of the other players are capable of this.

Displaying the channel logo (when available)?: Wunder Radio is also able to display the channel logo (when available) and other channel-related goodies like their twitter / facebook stream. None of the other radio clients are capable of this.

5. Related articles

You may also want to take a look at my previous (warning: non-iPhone!) articles on streaming on mobile platforms:

- Playing back AAC+ (HE-AACv2) on mobile platforms

- Sneak peek: the Main Chart of my forthcoming Multimedia Audio Streaming Bible

- Windows Mobile-specific remarks

You may also want to check out THIS and THIS pretty cool, albeit a year-old articles.

Also, if you’re interested in listening to Sirius XM specifically, check out THIS and THIS. Also note that ooTunes also allows those with a subscription to XM to login and listen to both XM and Sirius (Sirius is not fully supported though, but XM is). There is a link in the "websites" playlist at the bottom which lets you login, pick the station and stream it as any other.

6. Showing the battery percentage

Should you also want to display the battery percentage as can be seen in my screenshots above, do the following:

- If you have an iPhone 3G S: go to Settings / General / Usage and set Battery Percentage to ON

- If you have an earlier model, jailbreak your phone and find and install Extended Preferences in Cydia. Tap the new WinterBoard icon and tap enable Extended Preferences. Now that it’s enabled, after SpringBoard reloads, go to the system-level Settings / SpringBoard, scroll to the bottom and enable Numeric Battery. The percentage will be shown at once. Now, tap the new WinterBoard icon again and disable Extended Preferences to get rid of the non-OS3 system-level Settings lacking for example fine-tuning Push notifications.

An alternative way is installing SBSettings, which also has a shortcut to enabling this. I don’t like this feature as SBSettings, relying on swiping on the top of the screen, often comes up unwanted.

Note that you can also have it if you enable the hack on a previous-generation, jailbroken device. After removing jailbreak (for example, by completely reflashing the firmware even with the same firmware version), if you restore the backup of the jailbroken state, the percentage will still be shown. That is, in the end, you don’t need jailbreaking at all to see the percentage if you just restore a backup of a jailbroken phone with the percentage shown.

UPDATE (07/23/2009): Version 1.0.8 of Tuner2 is out

AppStore record

The only difference I could spot was the newly-added “Logged Titles” (screenshot of the new version; that of the previous one), which list all the tunes you’ve listened to (without your having to explicitly save them), while the original “Saved Titles” still lists the songs you’ve explicitly “saved”. In this way, it works in exactly the same way as ooTunes’ History.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any other change.

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UPDATE (07/25/2009):

1.) Tuner2 1.0.9 released. Compared to 1.0.8, it’s just a bugfix version – no new features at all.

2.) There’s a major rebate of Raizlab Corp’s ClockRadio this weekend: instead of $3, it’s sold at $1.

For this price, you may want to consider it. It has a major advantage over all the radio clients reviewed so far: if you leave it running (even on a suspended phone – that is, you don’t need to keep it running), it’ll be able to wake you up at a pre-set time.

It can be used as a desktop clock; particularly useful if you have a desktop stand with a charger and you disable auto-lock in system-wide settings. You can use any widely used backlight / text color combo; settable by dragging the screen anywhere while on the main menu. For example, the next setting emulates an LCD screen with green backlight:

And this either a LED radio with active LED’s – or a standard LCD one with inverted colors:

You can turn down the screen brightness by finding some "sweet points", which is particularly useful if you do leave it running the entire night in your bedroom.

Unfortunately, otherwise, it’s pretty incapable. In addition to the clock / SHOUTcast station directory (more on it in the next bullet), all it offers is Favorites (it’s there that you can enter custom stations) without any kind of editing capabilities (except for deletion). While it does display station metadata, there aren’t any added, metadata-specific features either.

Note that if you search for a station, not only stations containing the search string in their names will be displayed, but also the songs played some time in the past. An example of searching for "Beatles":

Unfortunately, searching for a song name won’t allow you to actually listen to it as this list seems to be old and non-updated. That is, don’t think this is anywhere near ooTunes’ Radio RooLette.

3.) There’s another, new radio client (now offered at a 75% initial sale), Left Coast Logic’s Smart Tunes Radio.

It offers somewhat more sophisticated alarm features (e.g., repeating alarms etc.):

Also, it allows for defining sophisticated sleep features:

Unfortunately, its built-in station directory is far inferior to that of ooTunes (or, for that matter, Raizlab Corp’s ClockRadio reviewed in bullet 2) when it comes to non-English stations. (And even English ones: for example, the "70s" category is completely missing etc.) While, for example, ooTunes has plenty of hits of "Schlager" (the German for popular, somewhat old-fashioned hits; screenshot HERE) and so does Raizlab Corp’s ClockRadio (screenshot HERE), there isn’t any hits with Smart Tunes Radio. And, if you look at the Germany group of the main group "Location", there are very few stations. (Incidentally, Pocket Tunes doesn’t really have many stations either – screenshot)

All in all, the built-in station directory is pretty limited. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way of manually adding stations either – and there’re not even favorites. Because of this and the far better-looking main interface (should you really want to use it in a cradle showing the actual time), if you do want to have a clock radio, I don’t really recommend this title. Then, Raizlab Corp’s ClockRadio reviewed in bullet 2 may turn out to be a much better choice.

4.) I’ve very thoroughly tested each of the most recommended radio stations (ooTunes, FStream and Pocket Tunes) in backgrounded mode on an iPhone 3G. (This means the results may be different on the 3G S, which has double the RAM memory and a much faster CPU. The local T-Mobile will only announce when they start selling the 3G S on Monday; hopefully, I’ll be able to get one next week. Then, I’ll, of course, re-test this on it too.)

I played the same 128 kbps (Vancouver, Canada) MP3 stream and navigated the same Web pages in iCab Mobile version 1.6 (the, in my opinion, way best third party Web browser).

FStream has turned out to be the one which was very quickly shut down by the system, closely followed by the new (still not publicly available over AppStore) and, CPU-usage wise, bugfixed ooTunes. Pocket Tunes was by far the best in this respect; in general, it wasn’t shut down at all. I’ve also tested the new, 1.0.9 version of Tuner2 in this respect; it was quickly terminated too. Of the two clock radio apps reviewed in this update, Smart Tunes Radio was slightly better; however, after some 10-15 minutes of browsing, it was shut down too. That is, at least on an iPhone 3G, go for Pocket Tunes if you do want to have a radio client reliably running in the background. (Or, of course, go for streaming using the built-in QuickTime client – either clicking MP3 / AAC links from Safari or waiting for the ooTunes version that can already pass the playback of these kinds of streams to QuickTime. The QuickTime playback hasn’t ever been stopped and, of course, it doesn’t need a jailbroken iPhone either.)


UPDATE (08/17/2009):

The price of Pocket Tunes Radio (one of the most recommended titles) has been decreased to $8.

UPDATE (09/27/2009):

The recently-released version, 5.3.0, of Pocket Tunes Radio has – following ooTunes, which implemented this kind of functionality first – background playback capabilities with streams compatible with the built-in QuickTime player. That is, if you run into an MP3 or an AAC stream (but NOT AAC+, unlike what the app description states), you can use QuickTime for playback, you won’t need to jailbreak your phone and install Backgrounder, with all its hassles and, on pre-iPhone 3G S, share of problems like Pocket Tunes silently exiting because of memory / system resource shortage.

To invoke background play, just tap the “Play Station in Background” title just above the station list during playback:

Note that this will also be displayed with incompatible streams. The above screenshot shows an OGG stream being played back; the title is visible even then. Of course, with these incompatible streams, you won’t want to attempt to play it back in QuickTime – your only choice is jailbreaking and Backgrounder.

After this, instead of Safari’s directly firing up QuickTime (just like in ooTunes), you’ll be presented a Web page where you’ll need to tap the “Open Station” button to actually start playback:


2.) the highly recommended ooTunes 2.5 has officially been released. See above for what’s new inside. Note that its price has been somewhat increased (to $5) and it seems it’s a separate app from the previous ooTunes version (I’m a paying customer of the previous version but still can’t upgrade without paying – it may be a local problem on my part, though); that is, you need to purchase it again to be able to download it.

UPDATE (10/15/2009 12:09 CET): Time-Shift Radio has received another update:

UPDATE (10/24/2009): Clock Radio has been updated:

UPDATE (10/28/2009): Frontpage at iPhoneMVP.com

Let me show you the picture accompanying the iPhone MVP article:

No comments are needed ;-)

UPDATE (11/06/2009): Pocket Tunes 5.4 released with stream recording capabilities. Please see THIS for a full review.

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<p>Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.</p>
<p>Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.</p>