Mart’s Radio Highlight of the Week: the BBC’s iPlayer Radio app

FullSizeRender 2Smartphones. They didn’t exist ten years ago, but now they’re glued to palms of all ages. They’re affecting social interaction, causing our thumbs to become enlarged and unsightly bends in our necks. Something like that anyway. It’s raising concerns.

More than once I’ve considered getting rid of mine and reverting to a smaller, lighter, less distracting, less expensive alternative, such as the recently reissued Nokia 3310. Okay, this would have its limitations, but we don’t really need to be constantly connected to the internet do we? Regardless of all this, there’s one app that keeps me using my device of metal and glass. Possibly my most-used app ever: the BBC’s iPlayer radio.

See, I’m a radio nut. An audio drama evangelist. Positively podcast potty. I grew up behind a market stall, and Radio 1 was on from stupid o’clock in the morning, throughout the day, until we got home in the evening. My alarm clock radio for school was set to Terry Wogan on Radio 2. In the house we listened to the chart rundown every Sunday evening. Having briefly dabbled with other stations some years ago, I’m now devoted to BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra: whatever your mood there’s something to suit you on one or the other. But whatever your BBC radio station of choice, if you’ve got a smartphone iPlayer Radio is an everyday essential. Here’s a rundown of the app’s key features.

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The Home page has an elegant pseudo-analogue scroll wheel at the bottom via which you can select your desired station. As you slide through stations the top half of the screen changes to show what’s currently being broadcast, with the option to listen live.

My Radio
This has two pages: Listen Later, and Following. This is where I spend most of my time in the app, accessing new episodes of my favourite series, such as Home Front, Tommies, and Jarvis Cocker’s Wireless Nights. New episodes of programmes you follow appear after broadcast, and links are faded if no episodes are currently available. You can also browse recent drama broadcasts and download those that grab your attention. A longer programme description, as well as info on the cast and production team can be found via Read More.

This page gives access to any programmes you’ve downloaded to your phone. The app allows you to specify the quality of your downloads, with three options: best for disk space, best all-rounder, and best of the best. I set mine to the latter to enjoy programmes at their highest quality. Although the files are larger with this option, the difference is discernible. I download, listen and then remove programmes, so they’re only on my phone temporarily anyway. Downloading also means you can listen in offline mode, useful for when you either can’t or don’t want to stream – for example when you’re not connected to a WiFi network and don’t want to use your data allowance.

There’s also a page dedicated to whatever you happen to be listening to at that particular moment. This can be accessed from any of the other pages via an arrow at the bottom of the screen, and features a scroll wheel so you can move through the programme with ease. The +/-20 seconds feature comes in especially useful if you want to replay a bit of a radio drama, or skip past something at the beginning.

As you might expect, this is a listings guide for the BBC’s radio stations. What’s on, when, with access to more information, the ability to share, and add programmes to My Radio or download.

I must admit I’ve never really used this page but it’s a variety of programmes from various stations covering different topics. Well worth exploring.

This page has an alarm, so you can wake up to your favourite station, a sleep timer, so you can nod off to your favourite station, and “night mode” – a clock and dimmer. For your favourite station.

Seek and ye shall find
Another useful feature of the app is its search function. I usually have a radio on somewhere in the house during the day, and if I hear a programme that sounds particularly interesting but I can’t give it my full attention at that moment, or a trailer for something to be broadcast at a later date, I can use iPlayer Radio to find out more and save to Listen Later. If I think it’s likely to be of interest to someone else, I can also share a link from within the app.

The BBC’s iPlayer Radio app offers every convenience a fan of the corporation’s top-notch output could want. Dramas, documentaries, opinions, phone-ins, music, interviews – all available in the palm of your hand at a time and place of your choosing. If you’re into radio, download it now. Five stars.

You can find my other radio-related posts here.

I’m a freelance writer and editor. Find out more, tweet me to say hi, or send an email to discuss my services.

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