While music streaming services continue to jack up the number of tracks they offer – and where they offer them – there is some differentiation in how they actually do that.
Free ($0.99 for Pro version)
Available at: Apple App Store, Google Play, BlackBerry App World, Windows Marketplace, Nokia Symbian phones
TuneIn has catapulted itself into one of the top Internet radio apps, and it helps that it's agnostic to all the major smartphone and tablet platforms. But what sets it apart is that it itemizes music, podcasts, news, sports and talk radio, along with location and language. If there's a radio station broadcasting on the Web, TuneIn probably has it.
With more than 50,000 radio stations spanning the globe, it seems unlikely that you wouldn't find more than a handful of favourites to tune in (pardon the pun) to regularly. At the same time, it will take a while to sift through that much content and pick out the gems, especially when it comes to foreign stations. That can be both fun and annoying at the same time.
The interface is user-friendly enough to at least make the scavenger hunt a little easier, but in truth, most of the good music you'll find will be based on guesswork or research. TuneIn will highlight certain stations that stand out for a particular genre, except the number of genres it gives you is limited for such a huge library of music.
The app comes free, and paying a buck for the Pro version adds the ability to record audio for later listening, including if you're offline. That's the only add-on for the money, so if you don't care about that, the free one will do just fine.
Free ($3.99/month for Slacker Radio Plus)
Available at: Apple App Store, Google Play, BlackBerry App World, Windows Marketplace, Nokia Symbian phones, Palm webOS
Where TuneIn offers up tons of radio stations, Slacker is more about creating one on your own. Assembling a custom station only requires selecting artists you want to listen to. Slacker then adds similar artists to the playlist to add more variety and help you discover new songs and artists.
This works because you can adjust it before you drive. If a certain artist gets on your nerves, you can banish them completely, and you can listen to more music from another by rating the artist higher.
But to do all this means you have to sign up for a subscription to Slacker Radio Plus. Otherwise, Slacker fills in your playlist automatically after you choose a track, and only gives you six skips per hour thereafter. By opting in for Radio Plus, you remove all ads, get unlimited skips and even have the ability to cache stations for offline playback.
You can just as easily play some of the pre-loaded stations Slacker offers, but it imposes the same limitations unless you have Radio Plus. Some gems are definitely to be had here, depending on what you're into. The stations are also focused differently than TuneIn, which only presents actual radio stations that fall under a specific genre. Slacker gives playlists more focus, even if you don't know what songs are coming up.