iPhones can be great driving companions--unless you routinely tweet, text, or otherwise fiddle with the device while behind the wheel. That's a surefire way to get yourself--and possibly others--killed.
Aha Radio for iPhone helps you keep your eyes on the road. The app provides a dashboard-friendly, oversize interface for everything from podcasts and local traffic to Facebook and iPod playlists.
That interface consists of four giant icons per page, the idea being to make them more at-a-glance accessible to drivers. You can customize the arrangement of these icons to your liking and choose exactly what content Aha Radio should provide.
For example, there's Nearby Traffic, which taps your current location and then reads aloud the traffic conditions and construction delays for roads in the area. Tap the microphone icon to "shout" a recording about any traffic you've encountered; it'll get shared with other Aha Radio users. Neat.
The Facebook station can read friends' updates, though in my tests it inexplicably skipped some of them. The cooler feature: tap the microphone and record an update that instantly gets posted to your Facebook status (as an audio clip, not transcribed text).
Aha's other station options include Coffee and Hungry, which will direct you to nearby coffee shops and restaurants, respectively--though configuring these stations can be confusing.
The app also provides one-tap access to a couple dozen popular podcasts, including Car Talk, Fresh Air, and Slate Magazine. What you can't get, ironically, is actual radio. Seems like integration with some kind of streaming-radio service would be a no-brainer, but for the moment you're limited to podcasts and your own media.
That's just one of several forehead-smacking deficiencies. Another is Twitter: You can listen to a handful of preselected feeds (Glee, anyone? Top Celebs?), but not your own. Seriously?
Meanwhile, the My Media station connects you to your own audio library--but lacks a shuffle-play option. It does have a 30-second replay button, which is nice for audiobooks, but no shuffle?! Come on, guys.
These are, to be fair, minor complaints. Aha Radio is a decidedly handy tool for drivers, one that makes quick (and safe) work of checking the local traffic or queuing up a favorite podcast. It just needs a few interface improvements--and some actual radio stations for those who want them.
Speaking of cool apps for the car: