Are you sick of having to download and manage your songs and podcasts on your Android device? Turn to Internet radio for hassle-free audio content, whether it’s music, talk shows, or whatever else. You can even tune into actual radio stations if that’s what you want — and all of this is available for free.
Of all the Internet radio apps that are available for Android, here are the five that impressed us most. Can you guess which one came out on top?
This app is more than just music. Unlike most Internet radio apps, this one is actually like traditional radio and offers various types of content, including talk shows, news, sports, and entertainment. You might think that this widespread focus might weaken the music side of iHeartRadio, but have no fear because it excels there too.
Only in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. (Though it is possible to circumvent this with an Android VPN.)
Not only does it boast a collection of 18 million songs from 400,000+ artists, it allows you to tune into 800+ live AM/FM radios from all over the country. It’s safe to say that you won’t run out of content for a long time with this app.
iHeartRadio feels fresh, clean, and modern. There’s nothing particularly eye-catching about it, but that’s why it’s so great: it steps out of the way and makes it easy for you to do what you want. Live radios? Custom playlists? Navigating songs? It all makes sense and never feels like an obstacle.
The beauty of iHeartRadio is that it’s as close to an all-in-one solution as you’ll ever get as far as Internet radio for Android is concerned. Choose from any number of curated music radio playlists or create your own stations based on your favorite genres, artists, songs. The “For You” feature will even tailor music to your personal tastes.
Free with ads.
Is there anyone out there who hasn’t yet heard of Pandora? This service is so popular that its name has almost become synonymous with “Internet radio,” at least for music. For live radio streams and non-music radio content, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Pandora pioneered the idea of a dynamic music playlist by way of its Music Genome Project, without which we might still be stuck in the land of MP3s and music player apps. Indeed, this app is as much about discovering new music as it is about playing music that fits your specific tastes.
Only in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
While there is a surprising genre diversity in Pandora’s selection, the total size of their music database is quite small, hovering at somewhere around 1 million. It falls way short of its competitors, such as iHeartRadio’s 18 million.
To be fair, I’ve found a lot of good music on Pandora that I haven’t encountered anywhere else, but at the end of the day, Pandora’s stations can and will grow repetitive.
There isn’t much complexity to Pandora’s design, which shines through in its interface. You pick the station you want (or create a new one) and it starts playing. From there, you can skip songs or go back and switch stations. It’s very straightforward, which is a major plus for a mobile music app.
While the lack of complexity might’ve been great for its interface, Pandora suffers for being a one-trick pony. Or maybe it doesn’t suffer at all. If the only function you need is the ability to “play songs like this song/artist/genre”, then Pandora is perfect for you. But if you need anything else, Pandora won’t have it.
Free with ads. To remove ads, you can upgrade to Pandora One for $4.99 USD per month. Pandora One is applied per-account rather than per-device, so this carries over onto all devices that you might use to listen to Pandora.
TuneIn is the most popular result when searching for “radio” on the Google Play Store and for good reason. Like with iHeartRadio, you can tune into sports, news, talk shows, podcasts, and even live radio streams from around the world. It’s a strong contender in the “all-in-one radio app” category.
Stream from a choice of 100,000+ real radio stations. Unlike the other radio apps on this list, TuneIn does not have its own library of songs dedicated to streaming music.
Aesthetically speaking, TuneIn is ahead of the trend with its sleek layout that works well on phones and tablets. However, due to the complicated nature of the app itself, not everything is as straightforward as it could be. It may take some time to get used to it.
In terms of performance, TuneIn is very hit or miss. The app is intensive on resources and will require a good deal of power from your device in order to run smoothly. On my 2-year-old Galaxy S3, I experienced more choppiness than I would normally tolerate.
TuneIn’s defining feature is its commitment to being “the real radio app”. Its entire design is built around the principle of tuning into live radio stations. Its global presence is the primary reason why it has such a massive userbase (over 50 million monthly active users), which is something that no other app on this list can say.
In addition to the 100,000+ real radio stations, TuneIn allows content creators to broadcast their own streams that users can tune into.
Free with ads. Upgrade to the pro version for $9.99 USD to remove ads and unlock the ability to record what you’re listening to.
This little gem of an app does not receive the attention that it deserves. Perhaps it’s the name that repels potential users (which is pronounced “ZEE-ah”, by the way) but if you just look past that for a moment, you might be pleasantly surprised.
XiiaLive, which is powered by SHOUTcast technology, taps into online radio stations that feature music, talk shows, and more.
XiiaLive can only tune into SHOUTcast stations, but there are 50,000+ to choose from so you’re bound to find a few that you’ll like. Many of those stations are music-centric by genre, but others focus instead on talk shows and other content.
The interface is one of the weaker points. The layout is a bit confusing at first and doesn’t get much better over time while the graphics themselves remind me of a modernized look straight from ’90s. Everything feels cramped on my phone, though certainly still usable.
By far the most useful feature of XiiaLive is the ability to rewind with a seekbar, a feature that I’ve yet to find on any other Internet radio app. As awesome as this feature might be, it currently only works with certain stations. There’s also a “Scan” feature that you can use to find new stations, much like the scan function of a traditional radio.
Plus, what’s great about SHOUTcast is that it allows you to start your own radio station.
Free with ads. For $3.99 USD, you can upgrade to the pro version which removes ads, allows advanced filtering of stations, increases the rewind time from 5 minutes to 60 minutes, and unlocks the ability to add homescreen shortcuts to specific stations.
Like Pandora, Songza is Internet radio in its most primitive form: the ability to stream music playlists of a particular taste. However, there are a few key differences that separate Songza from Pandora, namely the fact that Songza’s playlists are curated by a team of music experts.
Only in Canada and the United States.
Songza has access to over 20 million songs that have been carefully split into hundreds of playlists. Each individual playlist may only have a few dozen songs, but if you ever get tired of that particular playlist, you can always switch to another one.
I’ve been listening to Songza on a near-daily-basis for over a year and I’ve yet to explore everything it offers.
The interface for Songza is rather unique, partly due to its underlying design (which is explained in more detail down below). It feels fresh, looks good, and is unlike any other Internet radio app, but rest assured: it’s intuitive enough that you’ll get used to it in just a few minutes.
The most notable aspect of Songza is its “Music Concierge” feature, which takes the day of the week, the time of day, and the user’s mood (e.g., “Aggressive”, “Mellow”, or “Seductive”) and presents a selection of fitting playlists.
Playlists can also be searched and browsed according to activity (e.g., “Coding” or “Working Out”), genre (e.g., “Easy Listening” or “Showtunes”), or even decade (e.g., “90s Rock”).
Free. No ads.
And the winner is…
iHeartRadio. It has so many features without being bloated. It has dedicated music functionality and the ability to tune into live radio. There’s a wide selection of content, the performance is great, and it’s all available for free. That being said, all five of these options are great in their own ways.
For the desktop alternatives, you may want to look at these online radio tools for Windows.
Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!