TuneIn’s New Interface Encourages Exploration

The radio app uses Windows 8-like tiles to make it easier to peruse music, news and talk.

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When I listen to radio these days, what I’m listening to most often is TuneIn — the excellent website and app which collects 70,000 live terrestrial and web-only radio stations, plus two million podcasts and other on-demand audio programs. That’s a lot of audio to burrow through, including music, news, talk, sports and more. And now, with new versions of its iPad app and website, TuneIn is trying to make it easier — and more fun — to find stuff you’ll like.

It’s doing that mostly with a feature it calls TuneIn Live. You choose up to eight radio genres — from Top 40/Pop to Drum ‘n’ Bass to Gospel to Progressive Talk. TuneIn then fills its home screen with eight tiles that cycle through material from the genres you selected, drawn from all of its offerings. You see the song titles or shows in question, can swipe any tile to peruse additional items in that genre and can play anything that piques your interest directly from the home screen.

The way TuneIn Live enables serendipitious discovery within sections you’ve specified reminds me of Flipboard’s social magazine app. Its colorful, auto-updating tiles are also highly reminiscent of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8’s Live Tiles, in the interface formerly known as Metro.

TuneIn Live is slick and enjoyable, and my biggest beef is that there isn’t more of it. All you get are eight tiles, which might not be enough to accommodate every TuneIn genre you’re interested in. (When I first saw it, I thought I’d be able to swipe the whole screen off to the left to reveal more tiles, but no dice.)

It would also be nifty if the tiles were more customizable — if, for instance, you could pin a favorite show to the home page or specify several favorite artists, Pandora style, to create a highly personalized content stream. TuneIn’s Director of Product Kristin George, told me that the company plans to expand upon this initial version, so maybe we’ll see some of these tweaks eventually.

Right now, TuneIn Live is only available on the web and in the TuneIn iPad app. George told me that the company’s other apps, such as ones for iPhone and Android, will be getting the feature as well. I’m looking forward to its arrival on every gizmo I use TuneIn on.