BBC iPlayer Radio out today, iOS and Android apps in tow

The Beeb is sorting all of its radio stations onto a separate service -- here's what's new in radio land.

The BBC is sprucing up its online radio service, launching a central iPlayer for radio that collects all of Auntie's channels onto a single site.

From today, you'll see a dedicated home for the BBC's radio offering, with homepages for each station firing catch-up, live playback and featured bits and pieces directly into your ears.

The page for each station looks broadly the same, so it shouldn't be too confusing to use. If you're familiar with normal iPlayer then I think you'll get the hang of the new service rather quickly.

iOS app, but no Android yet

A freshly baked iOS app will launch alongside the service, and should be in the App Store either later today or tomorrow morning. The app has a carousel of radio stations that you can spin through with a flick of the finger, and an alarm function that wakes you up with a radio station of your choice.

Unfortunately that alarm doesn't work unless you're in the app itself, so you'll need to leave your iPhone or iPod touch on the alarm clock screen overnight. You can play radio in the background though, so leaving the app to do a quick Google search won't interrupt Gardeners' Question Time.

Playback works over 3G, but there's currently no way of rewinding live radio or downloading programmes for offline listening. Keep an eye out for these features in future updates.

The Android app isn't finished yet -- technical niggles involving Adobe Air and background playback are to blame apparently. The Beeb is confident it'll overcome these hurdles, but for now Android fans must play the waiting game.

There's no dedicated iPad or Windows Phone app either, but the browser-based website has been built to work on any screen size, so you should get a reasonable experience regardless of where you're listening from. There's currently no word on what changes you'll see on the YouView, smart TV or PlayStation 3 iPlayer apps.

Why split from iPlayer?

"Now CNET," you may be thinking. "iPlayer already has radio on it, so why on Earth would it create a whole separate service for radio programmes?" That's a smart question you asked, dear reader.

The BBC says it's making the change because 90 per cent of traffic to its online radio services are people listening live, rather than playing programmes back. Listeners also form stronger bonds to particular stations than to specific programmes, and as such the Beeb believes it makes sense to create a dedicated home for its radio offering.

Radio programmes and services on iPlayer are going to be phased out, so before long the only place to get the BBC's radio services online will be through iPlayer Radio. The BBC will be sticking notices on its websites to inform the listening masses of the changes.

I'm not 100 per cent convinced the change is a smart move, but I'll concede that the new interface and mobile app look clean and intuitive. Here's hoping radio fans who aren't so au fait with the BBC's technical tinkering are still able to find the stations they're looking for.

Will you change your listening habits, or was the BBC foolish to meddle with the radio status quo? Broadcast your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.



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