Listening to radio on the iPad

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Reader Daniel Shanefield finds that his iPad lacks a favorite iTunes feature. He writes:

With my iBook, I get free music from iTunes via Internet radio. But the iPod app on my iPad doesn’t offer this kind of content. How can I get that with the iPad?

You’re correct. While you can listen to streaming Internet radio on your Mac via the Radio entry in iTunes’ Source list, the iPad’s iPod app doesn’t offer this feature. Fortunately, you are anything but out of luck.

There are a number of iPad apps that can stream Internet radio broadcasts—more, in fact, than are streamed by iTunes. Many of these apps use technology developed by RadioTime, a Dallas-based service that maintains a database of over 60,000 radio channels—terrestrial stations as well as Internet-based stations. With these apps you can search for stations in a number of ways, including call letters, radio hosts, show names, genres, and bit-rate.

As I said, there are many of these apps. I have a couple on my iPad including the $2 Spark Radio and $7 WunderRadio. Both apps use the RadioTime database. Each lets you see stations near you based on location information, provides a feature for searching for stations, and breaks stations into genres. WunderRadio is more pop-over menu-based than Spark Radio, which uses buttons more extensively.

The current problem with iPhone and iPad radio apps is that they don’t currently operate in the background—when you switch away from the app, the sound goes away. This will change soon on the iPhone and iPod touch when background apps are allowed with iOS 4 and developers take advantage of that feature. Support for background apps will come to the iPad sometime this fall when its version of iOS 4 ships.

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