I’ve mentioned before that one of the central pleasures in my life is listening to Danny Baker on BBC London while I ride my bicycle into town. To do this, I used to use the TuneIn app for the iPhone, but it has a rude habit of cutting Danny off mid-anecdote, restarting a moment later at the same point it lost the signal, then skipping a few seconds to catch up. By which point Danny has gone to a Fountains of Wayne record, and I’ve missed the funniest bit of the story. Curse you, capricious app!
For this reason, I now listen to the world’s greatest radio show on an FM radio accessory which plugs into the old version of the iPod. But I’m no analogue snob, and it’s irksome having to carry a phone as well as an iPod, so this week I gave the new BBC iPlayer Radio app a whirl.
Is it any better than TuneIn? Well, after dialing up BBC London 94.9 using the whizzy little semicircular station selector, it soon became clear that it isn’t. On my seven-mile journey, the signal conked out three times – and unlike TuneIn, which attempts to reconnect automatically, I had to stop riding and restart it. Another advantage of TuneIn is that you can listen to practically any station in the world, not just the BBC’s output. So if you can put up with your favourite show going silent mid-broadcast, then choose TuneIn over iPlayer radio.
Yesterday was a decisive moment for a number of familiar technologies: Ceefax displayed its final pixels, and Apple sounded the death knell for CDs and DVDs by announcing that the new super-slim iMac won’t have an optical drive (although you can buy an external device if, in the slightly condescending words of Apple’s marketing chief, you are “stuck in the past”). FM, meanwhile, the old iron horse of audio broadcast media, has kept on going – even if it is, like an OAP, a little fuzzy at times. Perhaps 4G will be so fast and reliable that I’ll be able to chuck out my little iPod radio attachment, but at the moment it seems clear that radio apps don’t work as well as they should on 3G. So I’m puzzled why the BBC released theirs now. In the meantime, it’s FM for the Candyman.