FM and AM radio have been around forever now, but they are dinosaurs in this age of a digital, internet-enabled world. The best way to get radio now is of course on your smartphone, so long as you’ve got a good data plan or are within range of WiFi, and we’d like to show you how to get the most out of your smartphone radio-listening experience with our top 10 best radio apps on Android.
10) Sound Cloud
Sound Cloud is sort of an indie musicians dream. It’s also a great place to find albums that you just might not find anywhere else. Users can upload their own audio and make albums, and it’s often referred to as the YouTube of audio. This means that you’re not always going to get the best content though, as it’s not curated by professional music groups and you may just run across the occasional bad quality audio file. I’ve also run across a few bugs personally, as well as strange behavior with lockscreen music control and music control from the notification bar. Regardless of these anomalies the content Sound Cloud provides for free makes up for any shortcomings of the app.
Pocketcasts is a simple to use app that lets you manage your favorite podcasts in a great visual way. You can stream podcasts or download them for listening to later, and subscribe to them like channels. Pocketcasts will let you know how many new podcasts you have available on each podcast station and keep you up to date with notes about each episode so you can remember where you left off. Pocketcasts of $3.99.
Stitcher is another great way to listen to your favorite podcasts on the go. It’s got a great browser to check out what podcasts are out there for various topics ranging from politics to video games, music, movies and everything in between. You can add podcasts to a playlist and crank through them on your daily commute without effort. You can also save podcasts offline for those times when you shouldn’t be streaming data, a la if you have a capped data package on your mobile line or are maybe going off the grid for a while. Best of all it’s free!
What started out as just a way to listen to Clear Channel Inc.’s radio stations digitally has now turned into a full-fledged Internet radio app as well. You’ll get features like you have with Pandora where you can choose an artist and make a radio out of them, giving you similar artists and genres to listen to. It’s free too, so that’s a big bonus.
Who doesn’t know about Pandora in this day in age? Arguably the thing that made Internet radio truly popular, Pandora revolutionized how we thought about radio by letting us be the DJ instead of someone else. Pandora’s Music Genome project inclusion gives it quite possibly the best mix of songs and ways to find new music that you like, as it’s an intelligent system that curates a radio station based on your likes and dislikes of certain songs and the musical properties that make up those songs. Curate a playlist long enough on Pandora and you’re likely going to start finding new music that you love every single day. Pandora is free and ad supported but features a limited number of skips. You can pay under $40 a year to get rid of the ads and give you more features like additional skips and more. Ultimately Pandora falls short of being #1 only because you cannot play individual songs or albums, a feature that Spotify has.
Now that we’re in the top 5 it’s almost down to a personal choice, as many of the top 5 have nearly identical features and only differ on one or two fairly minor points. The biggest differences here are going to be the user interface, music selection and the way each service curates music for you.
Slacker radio has been around for a while now, and it’s made quite a name for itself. Specializing in sports and comedy stations, Slacker also offers radio functionality similar to the next 4 apps. What’s different here are the amount of songs available. Slacker claims to offer 13 million songs while the other services are more like 20 million. This may mean that your favorite artist or album isn’t on Slacker, but it helps make up for that by having additional content that the other services don’t need like sports and comedy stations mentioned previously. While Slacker has a cheaper subscription option of just $3.99 per month to store playlists offline, the $9.99 per month option lets you store specific albums and tracks as well.
Rdio is pretty straightforward: it allows you to look for specific albums, artists and playlists shared from other users, as well as trending topics for any of these categories. They claim 20 million songs available through the service and are available in 1/3 of the countries in the world. This is a pretty huge deal since a lot of these services are either US only or tailored to just a few countries where they can license their massive library of songs. While curation isn’t as good as some of the other services, the library and availability help make up for some of those better automatic feature setbacks.
3) Beats Music
Beats Music has made a name for itself with Dr. Dre’s namesake attached to it, as well as those trendy headphones you see floating around on the heads of teenagers in public. It also started its own streaming music service that offers a rather excellent set of curated playlists based on things you like and don’t like. It’s not only got professionally curated playlists that are updated frequently, it’s got a unique feature where you can make a sentence with hotwords on how you’re feeling and what you want to listen to and Beats will generate a playlist based on that. It also features an algorithm like Pandora that helps curate playlists to your taste based on songs and artists you thumbs up or down. Beats is $9.99 per month with a free trial and a family plan for AT&T customers.
Spotify is another service that, like Pandora, is known around the world and has become a household name. 20 million songs and many exclusives grace the catalog of Spotify and help make it one of the largest, most varied collections of music around. Artists like Metallica can only be found on Spotify and help make it a unique service in its own right, and it’s available in about as many counties as Rdio is too. Spotify is $9.99 per month.
1) Google Play Music All Access
While it seems almost cliche to give Google’s own music app the winning mark, there’s a very good reason for our choice. First of all it offers a comparable library to the other services with somewhere in the ballpark of 20 million songs available. You can choose any artist, album or playlist you like, and there are a variety of professionally curated playlists at your disposal that are constantly updated and switched out, all of which you can subscribe to and keep in your library forever. Speaking of library Google Play Music has by far the greatest library mechanic of all; you can upload 20,000 of your own songs for free to Google’s servers, and all of them integrate seamlessly with Google’s own catalog of streaming music. This means some of those inevitably missing albums from artists like The Beetles or Metallica that have signed exclusive contracts with other companies are still available to you if you own the albums themselves. Google Play Music offers sharable playlists like many of the other services too, meaning you’re going to be getting a truly social experience here. Google Play Music is $9.99 per month as well.