When Apple debuted the iPhone App Store I immediately downloaded a few of the free apps, including 3 radio apps: AOL Radio, Last.FM, and Pandora. But I never tried any of them out, until tonight. I’m not sure why; maybe I figured that over the EDGE network they wouldn’t work, or wouldn’t work well.
Tonight while driving home and listening to Macbreak Weekly, I heard Leo mention that he’s streaming his live shows and they work over EDGE. That got me thinking and I remembered that I had these radio apps.
I fired up AOL Radio. It played without skipping, but the audio quality was pretty bad. And AOL Radio stations are sort of like regular radio stations in that you pick a station/genre and then you have to take whatever it gives you.
I then tried Pandora, and the quality was not great, but was listenable, and it also played without skipping. And I quickly remembered why I love Pandora: it played Craig’s Brother, then Just Surrender, then June, then Thrice -- all bands I love. (For a quick explanation of how Pandora works: you just type in the name of a band or song that you like, and it then creates a custom "station" for you of similar music. You can give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to each track it plays. It’s remarkably good at picking stuff I like based on the songs I give it.) (Update: there’s a "high quality" setting in the app’s prefs, so I’ll have to try that while driving to see how well it plays.)
When I got home, I tried the Last.FM app; its audio quality is superb (still over EDGE) and doesn’t skip at all, though the fact that I’m not in a moving car now may have something to do with that. I’ll have to test it in the car. But I’m especially impressed with how Last.FM chooses its songs: it automatically has a "Your Library" preset consisting of all the music you’ve ever played through a Last.FM-enabled player, which I’ve been doing since 2004. The songs are streaming from Last.FM’s servers, but it knows basically all the tracks in my library, so effectively I have my whole library with me -- except that I can’t choose songs or albums; they play like a radio station.
All in all, I’m very impressed with the radio situation on the iPhone. In fact I’m surprised how good it is, especially over non-3G cell networks.