We inhabit a digital world that is instant, on-demand, and unlimited. It seems strange, then, that a broadcaster-controlled form of media, once the only form of broadcasting available, should still be popular. I’m talking about radio, a method of transmission no longer restricted to airwaves, thanks to broadband and the ease of streaming it provides.
Whatever the reasoning, a large number of us still listen to radio, and we have a massive selection of stations to choose from, including many from across the globe. This is great, but there is one respect in which traditional radio still trumps its modern-day counterpart — convenience. The reality is that it’s easier to switch on a radio and flick through the auto-tuned channels than it is to navigate many internet radio apps.
Maybe RadiON can provide an exception to this rule. Though it packs just as many stations as other apps in this genre — “over 50,000” is the claim — RadiON has a vintage-inspired style, as well as various alarm clocks and music collection features, all delivered for the modest price of $0.99. Is this enough to provide internet radio with analogue radio’s advantages, though?
Given the popularity and free availability of apps, such as TuneIn, which provide plenty of features, it’s obvious that RadiON’s interface needs to be special for this app to stand out. Well, it certainly is beautiful. Those who dislike skeuamorphism might not be impressed by the wireless radio-style design, complete with dials and an age-worn speaker grille, but boy does it look classy!
The top left of the screen is dominated by a beautifully designed analogue clock (a flip-style clock is also available), complete with day and date. To its right are the volume and screen brightness sliders, which have been carefully styled to resemble their old-school physical equivalents.
Below, are three rotating toggle switches which operate the alarm, radio, and timer, respectively. Then comes a modern intervention — a tab-based display for showing information about the channel being listened to, or the song being played. At the bottom is the aforementioned decorative speaker, along with access to the settings.
Even when you turn on the radio, the retro theme continues — the buffering graphic is a tuning dial, accompanied by the traditional muffled music and static. As a final touch, you can even switch off the app by tapping a “lit” red Power button.
RadiOn’s interface may not be the very best Android offering I’ve encountered, but it is certainly in the top league.
Browsing the Tunes
Of course, all this fawning over pretty design is an irrelevance in the face of a lack of function. Happily, RadiOn suffers no such predicament.
Channel browsing is a less visually stunning, more standard affair, although the polish seen elsewhere in RadiON still remains. Along with an iTunes Store-like carousel of featured stations is a list of your favourite channels (of which, curiously, there are several presets) and some station sorting options. Sorting can be by country or by genre, and each category holds a top 100 or top 30 channels for a view of what’s popular.
Also on offer is a library of SHOUTcast stations — independent productions, in other words — which gives a significant boost to the variety on offer. And if you have a personal favourite station that isn’t included in the app, there is also the option to add feeds manually, which is particularly useful for listeners of community radio stations.
One other notable feature here is RadiON’s in-built scrapbook. Whenever you hear a song you like, you can simply tap the paperclip icon next to its title to save it for later.
There’s a good reason as to why a clock dominates RadiON’s interface. This is an app which clearly has an eye on the kind of listener who wakes up to their favourite station.
RadiON allows you to set yourself multiple alarms, each with a plethora of options which can be configured (including repeat alarms and volume adjustment), although I do like the fact that you can use a MP3 file instead of the radio, should you so wish.
No doubt with the other end of the day in mind, RadiON also provides a timer, which will switch off the radio at a time of your choosing. The end result is a very well equipped and good looking radio alarm clock on your phone.
The Bottom Line
I listen to internet radio, using my Nexus 4, with a certain degree of regularity, and up till this point, I’ve been perfectly happy with TuneIn. RadiON has supplied me with a serious quandary, though.
That’s not, by any means, to say it is perfect. It isn’t the most feature packed offering out there, nor does it offer the greatest number of stations. The browsing navigation isn’t anything special, and if you’re looking for no-nonsense listening, then an app such as TuneIn would probably better suit your needs. What’s more, TuneIn is free, and although RadiON offers a free version, it is ad supported.
For those of us as much interested in form as in function, however, these downsides all seem irrelevant in the face of RadiON’s delightful design. Add to this the hugely competent alarm and timer systems, and the total is a very compelling package. As a result, I have to recommend that if you are an avid internet radio listener, you should consider RadiON in your search for a go-to app, and doubly so if you use the radio as a get-up-and-go motivator in the mornings.