HOW can you buy a DAB and internet radio – one which can pause, record and rewind live broadcasts, and with access to almost every station in the world – for around £20? If you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, you already have the guts of it; all you need add is a loudspeaker.
There’s nothing an internet or DAB radio can do that an app can’t do just as well, and probably better. Every radio station of note, including all of the BBC’s, can be accessed through programs like TuneIn, which substitutes the traditional radio dial for an attractive graphical interface. You can browse stations by location or genre, and store your favourites. You can also set an wake-up alarm, and to tune in a station, you just touch the icon of your choice.
Plug your device into a speaker dock and you have the best, most flexible household radio you’ve ever heard. Docks are sold just about everywhere – even Sainsbury’s stock them, somewhere between the washing powders and the after shaves – and they come in every shape and size, with prices starting at just over £15. You can choose battery or mains models, and the latter will charge your pod while you listen.
TuneIn itself is free, with an optional “pro” version at all of 69p, which adds the facility to record what you’re hearing and rewind what you’ve just heard. The sound is delivered through your internet connection. If you tire of what’s being broadcast, you can switch to iTunes and listen to podcasts, your own music collection, or your device’s inbuilt FM receiver. A dedicated radio capable of all this would set you back up to £100.
You can also use other mobile devices – your Android phone, for instance – in much the same way, though you will need a short cable to connect it to the speaker dock and a second one to the mains if you want to charge it as well. It’s another example of how multifunctional mobile devices are doing away with the need for traditional consoles, and one more nail in the coffin of DAB, a platform already superseded in most of the rest of the world and adopted half-heartedly at best by commercial radio here. DAB radios are cheaper than they used to be, but cut prices have come at the expense of quality, and many “own brand” models from stores like Asda and Currys rate poorly when it comes to sound reproduction. DAB reception is also notoriously unreliable, compared to analogue radio. Internet reception can also be flaky, but for £20, I can hear few complaints coming over the ether.