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Australia has the ABC, the UK has the BBC, Ireland has RTÉ, and America has the venerable NPR. For years, this public broadcaster has thrived, with its own blend of deeply cerebral radio programming, fiercely independent journalism and unshakable integrity.

And whilst traditional media outlets have floundered in this brave new world of the Internet, NPR has thrived, with an award-winning website and a range of lauded podcasts, including the magnificent This American Life, starring Ira Glass. Speaking of which, you can also stream hundreds of hours of This American Life Listen To 'This American Life' Complete Archives For FREE Listen To 'This American Life' Complete Archives For FREE Listen to any episode of This American Life, anytime, for free. That's access to nearly 450 hour-long episodes, all fascinating. You may not realize it, but the popular radio show from Public Radio International offers... Read More through their website.

What happens when you shove all that awesomeness into the palm of your hand? You get NPR One, the latest free app available on iTunes and Android. Read on to find out what makes this app awesome.

Listening To NPR One

When you run NPR One for the first time, you’ll be asked to press play. This then launches an audio clip introducing you to the app, and then it asks for permission to access your microphone so you can give it voice commands, as well as log in, so it does not play you the same radio program twice.

nprone-home copy

You can log in with either your Facebook, Google or NPR accounts. Once logged in, you’ll get the opportunity to choose your local station from the thousands of broadcasters in NPRs expansive network, after giving NPR One permission to view your location. I’m presently based in the United Kingdom, and as a result I didn’t see any NPR stations:

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nprone-finding

If you don’t feel like giving the app access to your location, you can search for your favorite station by its call letters or by your zip code.

nprone-stations

As you listen to programs and news stories, you’ll be given information about each story. While listening to a news story about the Argentine debt crisis I was shown a headline, along with the radio show to which the news relates to. Ideal for those whose attention ebbs and surges when paying attention to the radio.

nprone-nowplaying

You can also mark certain news stories, programs and segments as ‘interesting’, which is useful for a couple of reasons. First, you are able to revisit them at a later date, should you wish to.

nprone-interesting

Second, it also means that the NPR One app can make appropriate suggestions based upon what you’re interested in. Like a lot of news, but not so much Pop Culture Happy Hour? The app will adjust to ensure that your interests are met by what it feeds you.

You can also search for specific shows. It’s worth noting that when you search for shows, it’ll first make some suggestions for things you might find interesting. You can search for any of NPRs expansive range of programing, such as the awesome Snap Judgement podcast.

nprone-snap

And if you hear something you love, you can share it via e-mail, or through Apple’s Airdrop, which lets you share content between certain Apple devices. Is NPR One just a radio app? Not at all. It’s allows you to see a broader context to what you’re listening to, and listen to NPR programming that you’re bound to love.

What’s Not So Good?

There are a couple of noticeable problems with the NPR One app. Firstly, there’s no obvious way to cache content that the app is going to pipe through your ears. It’s constantly pulling from the Internet, which can be problematic if you’ve got a slow Internet connection, or a limited mobile data plan.

NPR One is available for Android (versions 4.0 and up), as well as iOS. I tested the app out on a fourth generation iPad running iOS 7. There is no iPad-specific app at present which means you will have to use the iPhone app, which stretches to fit your iPad’s screen (but it works just fine otherwise).

Should You Download NPR One?

Absolutely.

If this is the future of listening to the radio, then I’m excited. Thousands of hours of deep, insightful radio programming are packaged into a beautiful, intuitive app that responds to your tastes and your preferences.

If this doesn’t take your fancy, there are alternatives out there. I use Nobex on my Blackberry 10 smartphone, which allows me to stream a variety of radio stations and subscribe to my favorite programs. For music purposes, my colleague Joel Lee enthuses about Jango Radio Jango Radio: Pandora Has A Rival For The Internet Radio Crown Jango Radio: Pandora Has A Rival For The Internet Radio Crown At its core, Internet radio isn't different from traditional radio - you tune into a station, you listen to the songs that they serve you, and there is no step three. But even though the... Read More , which he feels is a rival to Pandora, and there’s always TuneIn TuneIn Radio Takes Traditional Broadcast To Mobile [iOS] TuneIn Radio Takes Traditional Broadcast To Mobile [iOS] Speaking of the iPhone and Spotify, it is a little disheartening to think that radio could give way to these newer, sexier modes of listening to (and sharing) music. But even still, radio has fought... Read More . If music is more your thing, maybe Rdio or Spotify will hit the spot Spotify vs. Rdio: A Complete Comparison Spotify vs. Rdio: A Complete Comparison I recently cancelled my Spotify Premium membership after a year of uninterrupted monthly payments to the company. This decision came about when I accidentally signed up for 14-days of free Rdio Unlimited. Quite frankly, I... Read More ?

Download: NPR One for iOS / Android (free)

Do you listen to NPR? Do you love these apps? Let us know in the comments, below.

Photo Credit: NPR HQ (Mr.TinDC)

  1. Vincent
    August 19, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Why would anyone log in using their Google account?
    Isn't that sharing your personal password?

    • Matthew H
      August 29, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      No. It's totally token-based. NPR will never see your password.

  2. Db
    August 14, 2014 at 3:14 am

    lol...NPR, the best of public broadcasts. NPR is the best PR for progressive leaning political hacks.

    • jbgsz
      August 15, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      quit smoking the FoxNews pipe, NPR is a wealth of balanced and fair content available for free... duh

  3. Jay
    August 13, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    I just downloaded it and it is very handy. I do agree that is unfortunate that it doesn't cache broadcasts. I guess I will make sure to use it while connected via wifi

    • Matthew H
      August 29, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Well, it only just came out! Maybe that functionality will be added later on!

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