Radio apps for the iPhone and Android have become plentiful with many offering similar features on tons of worldwide content. Aha Radio is a bit different because it's been designed to offer entertainment and driver-focused information in one package.
Available at: Apple App Store, Android Market (coming soon)
Those who have Pioneer's AVIC-X930BT and AVIC-Z130BT in-dash units would already have a good idea of what Aha Radio can do. The partnership between the two cemented the app as a viable platform, but the main reasoning behind it was likely because it's meant to be car-friendly to begin with.
One look at the app's screen tells the tale. Only four large icons can populate the screen at one time. Swipe sideways and you get more. You can add or rearrange these as you see fit through the menu list at the top right.
Tap the gear icon on the top left and you can learn more about the app, set limits (for explicit content, for example) and even add to your profile (assuming you've signed up for free). A nice perk here is that you can also monitor the app's data usage, considering you would need to stream this on 3G while in the car.
What makes Aha unique is the mixture of Internet-based programming, traffic reporting and access to local media stored on your iPhone. An overwhelming majority of the content is American, but CBC's As It Happens podcast is available here as part of a limited Canadian contingent.
Many of the podcasts and shows available are focused on politics, technology, car stuff, comedy and a few other categories, but it should be noted that Aha Radio is nothing like Internet radio apps that offer tens of thousands of stations from around the world. Within five minutes, it becomes clear that this app is more about podcasts, shows and personalized services.
The My Media feature opens up your iPhone's music library, but does it in a non-intrusive way because it only displays the song that's playing. Tapping the screen anywhere pauses or plays. Tap the icon on the lower right and you can get to your library to choose another playlist. Otherwise, simply tapping left or right can skip tracks.
Traffic reports are widely accessible in Aha Radio. No matter what feature you're using or app you have open, the car icon is prominent on the top right. Tap it and you will immediately start hearing audible traffic reports about closings, accidents, construction and other delays around your location. Some of these actually come from other drivers who have recorded their own traffic updates, meaning that you could do the same if you really wanted to.
The reports typically only cover highways and major roads, and are limited to Aha's updates and crowd-sourcing from other users, which can be hit or miss when it comes to timing.
Facebook and Twitter integration is included here, albeit without any visual elements. By logging in to both accounts, you can have status updates and tweets read aloud to you, but you have no way of responding to them while driving, which is a smart move on Aha's part.
While not as deep as other radio apps, Aha scores points for being safer to navigate, since simple swipes are all that's needed to browse what's on, rather than endangering yourself and other drivers by attempting to fiddle through a menu.