Online radio app wish-list

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So, I’ve tried two primary “big guns” apps for online radio – Slacker and Pandora. Both on Android, of course, on my HTC EVO 4G.
That experience was, well, extremely underwhelming, borderline crappy.

I understand, it’s always easier to criticize than to do something yourself, but in this case I’m dealing with professionals.

Pandora — service that many people use, still uses online app that looks like we’re in the 80s. Horrifying UI pretty much matches what you can see on their web-site. I suppose they have spent all of their energy on crafting pretty iPhone app. So, as a result, Android is an afterthought.

Slacker looks prettier, has a bit more options, and overall kinda more polished.

However both applications commit the worst possible music radio sin ever. They have tons of dead air. No matter, if I use 3G or 4G, both Pandora and Slacker have long tortured pauses between songs. And not even when you suddenly decide to skip some song you don’t like. No. Even your “regular scheduled programming” does exactly that. Why it’s not possible to pre-download one more song in advance, I don’t know.

Slacker has “offline” radio mode, which results in it downloading some material so you can play your “radio” while not having internet connection on the phone, but that also didn’t seem to help it to avoid pauses while playing online.
I don’t believe that it’s not possible to have seamless playback. After all, I can happily stream online radio at 192kbps MP3 stream without major problems (a hiccup once in a while is okay).

If this is a limitation of “free” versions of the apps/service, then it’s way un-enticing, and doesn’t make me want to spend extra five bucks to get a “plus” version.

What shocked me even more, is that Slacker tried to sell abc news as a service, to be inserted into my custom radio station. I understand decide of ABC/Disney to get money from online stuff, but come on. Local radio continues to give radio news reports at predictable times, and I can easily switch from bluetooth stream in the car to regular FM station. Public radio is still there, free streaming and all. Heck, I can get Sirius for about the same a month, and that has way more channels than just news.

So, here’s the list of things that “normal” radio app should have:
1. Easy start screen. Pandora can be okay, Slacker is overwhelming. It needs to have nice Play button, and couple of big easy switches — for in-car use.
2. Please, please, please pre-buffer songs. Allow user to switch it on, if you believe your client app will be ran on low-resource models, so you can’t use higher compression or something. If streaming radio works non-stop for 40 minutes, so should you. Downloading a JPG with album cover is not such a big deal (especially as shoutcast radio seems to show them too without any issues)
3. Car mode, if possible. So the buttons would be BIG and easy to press without looking carefully at the screen. In fact, ideally there should be just two buttons — skip and stop/play.
4. Keep a list of songs you played, for easy “I liked that one” later. Because when in the car, trying to unlock the screen and hit Like for a certain song is a bit difficult.

That should do it.

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