By Werner Ruotsalainen on Fri, 11/06/2009
(NOTE: I dedicate a full, separate article to the new version to gain as much attention as possible as 1. It has really groundbreaking features 2. the sale will end soon. Note that you may still want to read my all-in-one roundup Everything you'll ever need to know about listening to radio on the iPhone.)
So far, no radio program (except for the free and, otherwise, pretty limited FStream) could record radio streams. With the just-released version 5.4 of Pocket Tunes this has changed: now, you can record your stuff. What is more, in the original (highly compressed) format – unlike FStream, which uses CD-quality recording without any compression, taking up about 500-600 Mbytes an hour.
(the official AppStore “what’s changed” screen)
(recording a 128 kbps WMA stream)
1. Differences between FStream and Pocket Tunes
1.1 Recording format
Most importantly, Pocket Tunes records the files in their original format (AAC(+), MP3 and WMA). There isn’t any metadata recorded in addition to the pure audio, though.
1.2 Finding the recorded files
Unfortunately, Pocket Tunes (as with FStream - or, for that matter, the great Web browser iCab Mobile when it comes to the downloaded files it saves) stores its files in the home directory (under “Documents”), which can’t be directly accessed on a non-jailbroken phone – as opposed to some other apps like YourTube, which puts them under Media/Downloads/YourTube. Unlike FStream (or iCab Mobile) where you can access the files from a separate computer via the built-in Web server (accessible via More / Web : Web Management / Server Activation: Activated in FStream and [Settings icon / ] Export / Import / Start Server in iCab Mobile), you can’t access the recordings via Wi-Fi either, should you want to avoid jailbreaking your phone to gain direct access.
You’ll want to read THIS for a tutorial on how you can find the home directory of Pocket Tunes. Just enter this directory and, under that, in Documents/PtRecordings, you’ll find your recordings.
The filenames in Pocket Tunes are plain ascending numbers (1, 2 etc.) and no easily readable file contains the station name and the timestamp of the recording. That is, if you would like to know the time of the recording / the station, you’ll need to fire up Pocket Tunes and go to the new “My Recording” station directory. An example screenshot of it:
(FStream allows for renaming the records to anything.)
1.4 OGG recording
Unfortunately, Pocket Tunes doesn’t support OGG recording. It does record a file but it’s unplayable. This means you still must use FStream to record OGG streams – into, of course, uncompressed (that is, very large) files. Hope the developers of PTunes come up with at least an uncompressed record option to remedy the situation.
Fortunately, FStream doesn’t consume much power when continuously recording OGG either. In my tests (under exactly the same circumstances as with testing Pocket Tunes’ battery consumption in Section 2 below), it produced about the same power consumption figure (5%/hour for THIS stream) as Pocket Tunes playing back (and recording) a 64 kbps AAC+ (NOT HE-AACv2!) stream.
1.5 Fast forward / rewind
FStream doesn’t offer any kind of fast forward / rewind functionality when playing back previous recordings. Pocket Tunes does. While it doesn’t have a slider (unlike a decent multimedia player) for random positioning, it has two arrows to the left/right of the main control area in this playback mode, which quickly skip / rewind 15 seconds upon every tap. This is also shown in the following screenshot:
2. Power consumption
I’ve pretty thoroughly tested the battery usage of enabled recording. I have some great news: simultaneously recording a stream will result in no additional battery use at all – as opposed to some other apps also using the file system to implement time shifting.
With a 1.FM station (AAC+ 64k), streaming over Wi-Fi, the two cases resulted in exactly the same 5.5%/hour battery usage (starting from 100%) on a 3G S.
Note that Pocket Tunes doesn’t support HE-AACv2 by default. Nevertheless, there’s a codec meant for it; it needs to be purchased from inside the app. It costs $3. While I did try, I haven’t managed to purchase it – I’ve received some error messages when trying to initiate purchasing. (Needless to say: much as my phone is – of course! – jailbroken, my copy of Pocket Tunes isn’t pirated – as can also be seen in the first screenshot above.) Some screenshots showing this:
Upon encountering a HE-AACv2 stream, Pocket Tunes automatically offers the in-app purchase of the decoder
If you tap “Show more information”, you’re taken here with the built-in Web browser
(second page of the same Web page)
This is what is shown when you tap the Buy button – again, my copy is legit (I’ve paid $10 for it); that is, probably it just dislikes jailbroken phones, which is VERY bad practice.
Currently, Pocket Tunes is offered at $7. The developer states it will soon be raised to $10 (again).
Now with the new recording feature (and also the recently added background playback one), Pocket Tunes has become one of the best choices. I can only recommend it.