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Android versus Apple iOS: which makes better radio?

The Marc Maron podcast on my Droid Razr BeyondPod application.

As the great patent war between Samsung and Apple continues, I’ve started wondering which mobile operating system is better for radio listening: Apple’s iOS, which runs the iPhone and iPad, or the various Android flavors featured on Samsung devices and many other mobile phones.

My tentative answer is that it is a bit of a toss up, but an interesting one, given the likelihood that Android is going to stay in the mobile game, despite all legal setbacks.

Here’s how I see the comparisons shaping out in three major categories: streaming, podcasting, and direct FM transmission.

1. Streaming

You can get streaming applications like TuneIn radio on both iOS and the Android. That means you have access to a wide variety of frequencies not only across the United States but around the world. My experience is that TuneIn works equally well on both my iPad and my Droid Razr.

But sometimes significant radio apps get developed first for the iOS, then come around for the Android later. This was the case with I’ve also noticed that individualized Android radio apps can be unreliable (for example: a local unlicensed radio station around my San Francisco neighborhood has an Android app, but I’ve never been able to make it work).

So if you are buying a mobile device based on its streaming radio-centric capacities, perhaps take a look at your favorite desktop radio programs to get a sense of their operating system orientation.

2. Podcasting

I had the misfortune of beginning my Android mobile podcasting experience with Google Listen, which I eventually realized was a terrible application (and now discontinued). Happily there are a variety of better products, among them BeyondPod and DoggCatcher for the Android, and Downcast and Podcruncher for Apple devices.

Or, most obviously for the iOS, just go to the iTunes store and select Podcasts (at the bottom of the screen for the iPad), and pick from a wide variety of casts. You can also download Apple’s free “Podcasts” app, but be forewarned, it has a terrible user rating record. Stitcher also offers lots of casts on both Android and iOS.

3. Direct FM streaming

Some Android phones come with FM receivers. This gives them an advantage over other devices (including iOS mobiles) in several ways. First, you can listen to local radio stations without using up data. Second, if a big emergency in your area takes down your broadband network, you’ve still got a shot at reaching local electronic media to find out what’s going on.

It’s not all that big an advantage, though. FM chips and their related gadgets are so small and economical that you can buy an almost infinite variety of attachable FM transmitter/battery charger/car stereo syncing gizmos for your iOS gadget for as little as four or five bucks. The same goes for Androids.

And so, in conclusion, the iOS-versus-Android radio question is inconclusive, just like the Apple/Samsung patent fight. What sayest thou, Radio Survivor readers?

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2 Responses to Android versus Apple iOS: which makes better radio?

  1. Paul Riismandel September 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    I must say that one of the things I like most about my Android smartphone is the FM radio. When I’m traveling it’s just one less thing to carry. I also like Stitcher, which is cross-platform and works equally well in iOS and Android.

    One advantage to Android is that the app market is far less restrictive than the iOS app store. It cuts two ways. On the one hand you can get semi-legal music apps like Grooveshark for Android, but not for iOS, because Apple doesn’t like the app’s approach to copyright obedience. But on the other hand, there tends to be more dreck in the Android market.

    I’m curious to know, Matthew, how the sound quality of your new iPad compares to your Kindle Fire.

  2. Matthew Lasar September 4, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    My iPad sounds better than my Kindle Fire. Much better. But if you add a small external receiver, the Kindle sounds fine.

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