Public Radio for People Without Radios

(Page 2 of 2)

it can connect you to so many stations around the country—more than 200 at last count. I discovered public radio as a teenager growing up in central Michigan, so it’s nice to be able to check in from time to time with WKAR in East Lansing. Having lived in San Francisco and (briefly) Las Vegas, I’m fond of both KQED and KNPR, and my brother lives in Alaska, so it’s also fun to hear when the river ice is breaking up in Talkeetna on KTNA.

In the latest version of the tuner, released in January, programmers fixed some of the app’s early problems with frequent crashes, and added oft-requested features like book marking, a search function, and the ability to find nearby stations using the iPhone’s GPS chip. With all these features, it doesn’t surprise me that the Public Radio Tuner is currently number 15 on the App Store’s list of the most popular free apps. And if you’re not an iPhone owner, never fear—the team that built the app says the 2.0 version, which is coming in May, is being built using technology that will be easier to port to the Android operating system. [<– This sentence clarified with input from Matt MacDonald at PRX; see his comment below. Thanks Matt.] Versions for Windows Mobile and Blackberry smart phones may be coming later.

Public Radio Tuner, tuned to WBUR BostonIt’s worth repeating, though, that for now the Public Radio Tuner only plays live audio streams. If you want to time-shift your radio listening, you’ll need to dig into the podcast section of the iTunes Store. The good news is that a growing number of public radio shows, including most of the shows I listed above as my favorites, are available as free podcasts. If you subscribe to them, they’ll show up automatically every time you sync your iPhone or iPod. (Meanwhile, there’s a report [confirmed by Matt] that the May update of the Public Radio Tuner will let listeners hear on-demand content.)

There’s an amusing coda to the story of the Public Radio Tuner app. If you look at the app’s page in the iTunes Store, it gets only two stars out of a possible five. That mystified me, since the majority of the recent reviews are raves, giving the app four or five stars. When I clicked all the way through to the earliest reviews, it turned out that the Public Radio Tuner had a bit of a marketing problem: Most of the people who downloaded it when it first appeared thought they were getting a tuner for all radio stations, and therefore gave it one star out of disappointment. Some representative comments: “Horrific stations for stations! and the ones they do have are classical? WTF!!!!????” “Garbage unless ur over the age of 90.” “This app needs more hip hop stations or something I was not plzd.”

Well, I’m not over 90, but I’m very plzd with the Public Radio Tuner. Now my iPhone isn’t just a phone, a music and video player, a camera, a Web browser, an e-mail device, an e-book reader, a speech-driven search engine, a geocaching navigator, a fitness tracker, and a four-holed flute; it’s also a good old-fashioned radio.

Single PageCurrently on Page: 1 2 previous page

Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

Trending on Xconomy

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

23 responses to “Public Radio for People Without Radios”

  1. Hi Wade,

    Thanks for the great write up on the project. Just a minor clarification, we’re not going to be releasing an Android version of the app in May, version 2.0 will have on-demand and program guide information but will still be for the iPhone platform. We’re building as much of the app as possible so that we could then port to Andriod with minimal effort.

    Glad you are enjoying and using the app.


  2. Well, if you liked this, then you will love stitcher, with on-demand custom streaming to your iPhone of public radio content and a myriad of other news and talk.

  3. Flo says:

    World Wide Wade . . .
    Thanks for the shout out . . . would you write me at the station email? I’d like to know more about your listening to KNPR . . .

    Flo Rogers
    President & General Manager, Nevada Public Radio.

  4. joshuadf says:

    Thanks, this is a very cool app that I hadn’t heard of. I’ve been using podcasts for NPR and This American Life, but sometimes (like election night) I want local content. Luckily I already knew what website to go to for streaming local coverage: KUOW (Seattle). On-demand sounds very exiting, too.

  5. Public Radio Tuner is one of my favorite iPhone applications. I can now sleep late on the weekend and still listen to Weekend Edition, by listening to a west coast public radio station, or if I wake up really late, I can catch Weekend Edition on one of the Hawaiian public radio station.
    Being a program director, I’ve found this to be a great source for monitoring other station’s pledge drives, to get ideas of what others are doing to generate calls.

    Larry Mayer
    Program Director
    WETS 89.5FM
    Johnson City, TN

  6. Jack Valinski says:

    Check out NPR Mobile, it list topics on all the main npr shows and you can listen to those missed segments after the audio is posted. Also Tuner shows the bit rate so those of us on 2G can listen to those stations that stream in lo-fi.

  7. John Stack says:

    Last week in SF, I listed to WQED and then found WBUR. Both dropped a few times and significantly drained my power but it was worth it. Nice to have a taste of home away from home (as long as its not Boston food in SF!)

  8. Bob says:

    Has anyone else stumbled across the new format/programming that they have on 1680 AM in Grand Rapids? I was flipping through my radio and planned on reminiscing to a little Radio Disney, which has apparently been replaced. Anyway, it is now billing itself as Public Reality Radio. I only got a chance to listen for a little bit, but they announced a URL as I checked out their site, and there is some interesting programming that they have. If anyone else has listened to this, I would love to hear some opinions, and if you haven’t heard it yet, I would give it a listen. I was particularly fond of “The Infidel Guy”.

  9. Bjorn says:

    The Toy Lounge of St. Paul MN – – makes custom iPhone apps for radio stations, both traditional stations and online radio stations. Basic starter app for streaming radio (up to 5 streams on one app) and add optional iTunes tagging and ad serving. Like the Public Radio Tuner, these apps only play live streams and will disconnect if you need to check mail, etc.

  10. Valerie Garagiola says:

    To whomever it may concern,

    I am very impressed with your website and have a video that I think may be of some interest to you. My friend is a member of NPR’s Los Angeles affiliate KPCC and was recently selected as a finalist in the Challenge.Create.Change contest for a video he created espousing the benefits of public radio membership. The contest, sponsored by Target and ConverseOneStar encourages people to challenge, create, or change something about their world. I thought this might be interesting to share with other affiliates as a means of encouraging people to contribute. You can watch the video at Please encourage others to view it and if they like it, to vote for his entry “first charitable act” at

    Thank you,

    Valerie Garagiola