How to Listen to the Radio on Your iPhone

With all the games, social networking and productivity apps flooding the App Store, it’s easy to forget that your iPhone is the best mobile music device on the market.

Aside from the awesome built-in iPod, there are plenty of great radio apps out there that allow you to listen instantly to just about anything you could want. Below we’ll look at a handful of all-star radio apps that you should try today.

A Tale of Two Categories

There are two primary ways to listen to the radio with your iPhone. The first is to tune into actual radio stations. Unfortunately, unlike the iPod Nano, the iPhone doesn’t have a built-in FM tuner. However, there are several apps that stream content from radio stations and their websites from all over the globe.

Using these apps you can listen to most of your favorite radio stations just as if you were in the car or carrying around a boom box on your shoulder like in the 90s. Many of them even add bonus features like recording, tagging and alarms.

The second way to listen to the radio is through one of the next-generation radio services. These services have sought to revolutionize the music world by providing you with customizable content that plays on demand and actually learns what you like vs. what you don’t.

Old School Radio Apps

To get started, let’s take a look at a few apps that bring can bring all the wonder of AM, FM and/or satellite radio to your iOS device.

iheart radio

If you want to go the traditional AM/FM route, start here. Clear Channel’s iheart radio is one of the best free radio apps you’ll find on the App Store.

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iheart radio

With iheart you’ll have access to over 750 talk and music stations. The impressive feature set includes the ability to favorite songs and stations, shake to shuffle, song lyrics, video content, multitask support, podcast downloading and more.

If you’re comparing free apps, also check out Public Radio Player, a similar solution with around 500 stations.

Price: Free

TuneIn Radio

TuneIn Radio is a lot like iheart radio on steroids (you pay for the extra features). It has over 40,000 stations from around the world and tons of killer features like station recording, an alarm clock, a built-in web browser, live radio pause, bookmarks, amazing search capabilities, a sleep timer and a whole lot more.

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TuneIn Radio

TuneIn is by far the best app in its category that I’ve come across. Check out our full review if you want to learn more.

Other similar apps include Radio and Public Radio App.

Price: $1.99

Sirius XM Premium Online

The merger of Sirius and XM has pretty much created a monopoly in satellite radio. While this may be bad for your checkbook, the good news is you can get all your favorite satellite radio stations in a single iPhone app.

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Sirius XM Premium Online

This app gives you over 120 stations, tagging, song purchasing and multitask support so you can listen while the app is in the background. Keep in mind that while the app is free, you have to be a Sirius Premium Online Subscriber to actually use it.

Price: Free

Second Generation Apps

Now we’ll take a look at some of the best apps that allow you to customize your stream. There are a few popular apps here you’ve no doubt tried and hopefully one or two you haven’t.

Pandora

It’s fair to say that Pandora is the king of this niche. The app has been hovering the top downloads section since the App Store first launched and the online service has been a favorite of mine since long before iPhones existed.

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Pandora

Basically, if you haven’t ever used Pandora, you need to go download this app immediately. The general idea is that you type in the name of a song or artist that you like and Pandora will build you custom radio stations that get smarter over time based on your suggestions.

Price: Free

Last.fm

Last.fm is a lot like a cross between Pandora and Facebook. It’s actually a really awesome social network that tracks your music listening habits and provides you in-depth stats, hooks you up with users with similar tastes, helps you discover new music, and gives you custom radio stations.

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Last.fm

The Last.fm iPhone app has nearly all the best features from the website: custom stations, tagging, “hearting” tracks, banning tracks, events, artist bios and more.

Price: Free

Slacker Radio

Slacker Radio is yet another app that basically borrows the Pandora format. You can choose from popular stations or create custom stations based on your own personalized interests.

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Slacker Radio

Choose from millions of songs, thousands of artists and over 120 existing stations. You also get artist bios, lyrics and even caching for offline listening.

Price: Free

Stitcher Radio

Stitcher is an awesome app that essentially takes the Pandora model and applies it to talk radio. You can listen to pre-built or custom stations that feature portions of all your favorite radio programs and podcasts all strung together back to back.

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Stitcher

I really love this app. It’s one of the best ways out there to get a quick look at all of today’s current events all over the globe from multiple sources. It’s really nice to be able to survey so many programs and podcasts so quickly. If you’re at all interested in talk radio, I highly recommend grabbing this free download.

Price: Free

Conclusion

The apps above represent some of the best available for listening to the radio on your iPhone. With the exclusion of the XM app, I personally use all of these regularly and can attest to their quality (though the most recent Slacker update is catching a lot of negative reviews).

Also, if you don’t mind paying for subscriptions, you’ll definitely want to check out Grooveshark and Spotify (not available in the US) as well. These services go beyond the freedom of even the Pandora model by allowing you to listen to whatever music you want on demand.

Leave a comment below and let us know how you listen to the radio on your iPhone and which apps you think are the best.


  • Daisy

    None of the mentioned apps here are in the Dutch app store >.<

    And I don't feel like paying for Spotify to try out the iPhone app! Anyone in the comments have any other suggestions?

    • Daisy

      Oh it looked like I was lying, I did just find TuneIn! Still really looking for something like Pandora or last.fm to discover music with my own tastes as base?

    • haddock

      Spotify is worth every penny! Best music solution so far and there’s nothing even close… BUT if Apple do the same thing with iTunes/mobilme i’ll be first in line to by a account.

  • http://olikenobi.com Oli

    You forgot Rdio!

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Crap… you’re right. Another solid subscription service!

  • http://www.ardissone.com/ Leandro

    Also, you forgot the fresh new Grooveshark. Works splendid.

    • Mashi

      Yeah, except Grooveshark was pulled from the App Store and is only available via Cydia now.

  • Mashi

    I’ve been looking at TuneIn for a while, but only if there is support for custom stations or if they have the library of Digitally Imported’s streams. Aside from DI, I also listen to Lapfox and Skaianet.

    Otherwise, I’m sticking with free Fstream!

  • http://seanburdick.com Sean

    Also WunderRadio http://www.wunderradio.com/

    While having an incredibly ugly interface- it can stream nearly any FM station I could think of, when iHeartRadio is limited to (i think) Clearchannel operated stations.

    • sean

      Actually, WunderRadio is hooked into RadioTime which carries the largest terrestrial library. A new app called Spark Radio is also supposed to tie into RadioTime and has a few other added features (and better GUI).. I’m going to check that out too.

  • Fernando

    I love TuneIn Radio, it’s work perfectly

    • Keith Angus

      It does NOT work perfectly in my experience, nor in the experience of many others. In fact it doesn’t really work at all. It is virtually unusable because of the constant buffering. I have a fast internet connection, a up-to-date router, an iPhone, an iPad and the latest Macbook Air, and TuneIn Radio doesn’t stream reliably to any of them. But I can stream HD films and radio through a Sony Smart TV with no problems. And, in my experience, the TuneIn Radio customer support is practically non-existent. Read the reviews published by the the App Store. There are more single star ratings for TuneIn Radio than any other App I have ever come across.

  • haddock

    Radiobox is one of my fav radio apps.
    More than 30.000 radio stations and so on… works great.

    http://itunes.apple.com/app/internet-radio-box/id293623806?mt=8#
    http://radiobox.eingrad.com/

  • stfn

    I use and love Snowtape.
    Has a on of Stations, you can record Songs and it has a really nice Interface.

    http://www.vemedio.com/products/snowtape_phone

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  • http://www.BartMolk.nl bernardus

    RadioStation heeft meer dan 150 van meest bekende nederlandse radiozenders en is gratis te downloaden tot 8 Augustus! ik raad de applicatie zeker aan want het is wel een download waard.

    Binnen enkele clicks kunt u tussen de verschillende radio stations door navigeren, laad eenmalig en werkt perfect daarna!

    Haal de app snel van de appstore! :)
    http://itunes.apple.com/nl/app/radiostation/id453459897

  • Jacob

    I want to be able to tune in to a specific channel at my gym so that I can get the audio from the television through my iPhone. Will any of these apps let me choose the exact station I want to dial into? Or do they just tell me what it will allow me to tune into?

  • abekid

    just wondering how much data usage do you need to listen stream music say 1 hr
    a day on your smartphone?

  • colb

    i need an app to that allows me to input the radio stream url, cause i have a select few internet radio stations i want, and nothin else.

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