Spark Radio – iPhone Application Review

Spark Radio - iPhone Application Review$6 for an Internet radio application? That’s crazy, right? That’s exactly what I thought when I went to check out the Spark Radio app. I thought the pricing on it was absolutely ridiculous. After all, you can get a host of different Internet radio applications for free. You can use Pandora or Slacker Radio without paying a penny. And the list goes on and on. So why is it that you should spend $6 up front to get this application?

It’s actually quite reasonable question. And there is a reasonable answer…

I was given a review copy of the application (so I didn’t pay the $6 to get it) and I was rather skeptical at first. It is a well done app but still… $6?? But the more I use the application the more I realize that they’ve done a fabulous job with this particular application and it actually could be worth the money.

Let’s take a look…

Spark Radio - iPhone Application ReviewThe PR-

Spark Radio is a robust, visual radio tuner that leverages the guide to provide more than 10,000 terrestrial and Internet-only radio stations worldwide. The app is adding new stations daily and will support more than 30,000 by April. This means users can listen to precisely what they want to at any given time, whether music, talk radio, sports events, public radio or special programming from around the world. An elegant interface and program guide make it easy for users to quickly find their favorite stations. Users can search for stations or programs by keyword, location or the station URL and can browse programming by genre or location. A GPS component allows listeners to find local stations in any given city based on current GPS coordinates.
“The Spark Radio app is a beautiful and fun radio application that opens the world’s selection of music programming that only radio can provide,” said Bill Moore, CEO of RadioTime, Inc. “RadioTime makes it easy for Spark Radio users to find their favorite radio stations and discover new ones from wherever they are.”

Spark Radio - iPhone Application Review So what is it about the application that I like? There are a few things. When you first launch the app you are offered a host of different radio stations. You can choose by genre, favorites, recent stations and “Sparks Community” to hear what others are listening to. That is not dissimilar to many other Internet radio station apps. The thing that is different here is that, at least in my experience, most of the stations listed actually work!

This is actually a change from many of the Internet radio applications I’ve tried where many stations that are listed won’t actually stream.

Spark Radio - iPhone Application ReviewI thought the visualizations that are advertised as a big part of the app were a gimmick. They are…

Spark Radio - iPhone Application Reviewbut they are a gimmick that grew on me the more I used the app. There are eight different visualizations but that’s only the beginning. The…

unique graphic visualizers react to music and create mesmerizing and ever-changing animations. Each animation is touch sensitive so users can interact and ‘play’ while they listen.

The “touch sensitive” part is what really sold me. With it you can change the visualization’s color, frequency, shape and more. It is really neat to play with!

Spark Radio - iPhone Application ReviewI actually found the visualizations to be quite powerful when I was listening to music and trying to relax.

Spark Radio - iPhone Application Review
The actual interface is simple to use.

Spark Radio - iPhone Application Review
In addition there are a host of different settings that can be adjusted to suit your taste.

Spark Radio - iPhone Application ReviewThe first time I looked at the app there seemed to be TOO many setting in fact but as I used the app more I can to appreciate having the ability to make the app “mine”.

Spark Radio - iPhone Application ReviewOne of the best settings is the ability to adjust the size/time of the buffering stream. This means you can likely overcome somewhat “jumpy” data connections. Or as the app explains

Spark Radio is optimized for stream stability, so users can take it in their vehicles. This means users can access more than 10,000 stations through their car stereo. Spark Radio offers a large variety of radio content at a small price compared to satellite radio.

The developer makes a big deal out of the app’s “community features”. They explain

Unique social features make radio listening more fun. Users can create a profile and see what otherSpark Radio users are listening to at any given moment using an interactive Globe Navigator. They can find other listener’s favorite stations and share their own, as well as rate stations. And, they can see who else is listening to any station in the directory.

Personally this is a non-event, non-feature for me. But hey, you might like it.

Spark Radio - iPhone Application ReviewFinally, the application includes a built-in browser. I didn’t see the purpose of the browser at first but then I realize why it was there. Apple doesn’t allow multi-tasking on the iPhone. The browser is there as a workaround. You see, because it is part of the app you can actually browse the web while you listen to the radio. I searched for and found Google Reader. I put in my credentials. And within a few seconds I was going through my RSS feeds while listening to my favorite new chill station. It’s actually quite brilliant and I really appreciate the fact that the developers thought to put this in as a key aspect of the functionality of the app.

Note to all other developers- DO THIS!!!!

Spark Radio - iPhone Application ReviewThere is one final reason why I really started liking this app. Within the first hour of using it I discovered five tracks I liked that I would not have encountered were it not for Spark Radio.

So At the end of the day I can actually recommend an application that, at first, I wanted to pan. Yes, at $5.99 the app is on the higher end of what end-users are used to paying for this kind of thing but for that money you do get an app which works well and will give you hours and hours of musical enjoyment.

Spark Radio is available HERE in the iTunes App Store for $5.99.

What I Like:
Works well, lots of settings, fun visualizations, in-app browser lets you “multi-task”

What Needs Improvement:
The $5.99 price tag will scare off a lot of potential buyers.


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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.

1 Comment on "Spark Radio – iPhone Application Review"

  1. iPhone Apps | March 8, 2010 at 8:47 am |

    No doubt this is the one of the best iPhone App BUT investing $6 for an Internet radio application
    it's looks like bit expensive one can buy 2 or 3 in $6 instead.

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