New app turns your iPhone into a public-radio DVR

The aptly named Public Radio App not only streams live and on-demand content, but also lets you pause, rewind, and fast-forward it. It's a public-radio alarm clock, too.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read
The $2.99 Public Radio App puts three of your favorite stations just one tap away.

iPhones may not have FM tuners built in, but they can do a damn fine impression of a radio. In fact, where public radio is concerned, an iPhone is even better than the real thing.

Apps like NPR News and Public Radio Player 2.0, for example, let you tune into live streams from hundreds of stations and listen to your favorite shows on-demand.

Now comes Public Radio App, which raises the bar even higher with features like pause/rewind, a show-schedule timeline for the current stream(s), and an alarm clock that lets you wake up to your favorite station.

However, unlike the aforementioned apps, Public Radio App is not free. Rather, it'll set you back $2.99. Is it worth it?

Definitely. The app can find local public-radio stations via GPS or look them up via a nationwide directory. Any station you find, you can stream in real-time. And any show you want to hear, from Car Talk to This American Life, you can play on-demand.

You can also pause, rewind, and fast-forward the content, DVR-style, whether it's real-time or on-demand. That's a pretty major addition, as the other apps let you pause only the on-demand programs, not the live stuff.

It would be fantastic if you could store, say, an entire Fresh Air segment for later listening, like when you're on an airplane, but PRA doesn't go that far.

It does, however, offer lots of other nifty features. For example, the first three bookmarked stations appear on the player's main screen, allowing you to switch between streams with a single tap.

You also get a side-scrolling show schedule for each station so you can see what's coming up without leaving that screen. I particularly like the alarm-clock function, though it does require you to leave the app running (something to remember before going to sleep).

PRA even integrates with the Radio Bookmark service, allowing you to save and/or replay whatever you're listening to.

In my informal tests, PRA loaded a lot faster than the notoriously pokey Public Radio Player. That said, the latter offers most of the same core features--and it's free.

Still, $2.99 isn't going to break anybody's bank, and I'd go so far as to say Public Radio App is currently the best, well, public radio app to date. For serious fans, it's a must-have.