No More Driveway Moments: NPR for iPad

How many times have you sat in the car with the engine turned off, so engrossed in an NPR radio story that you had to hear the end before going into your house? If you’re an NPR addict like me, you’ll kick yourself for waiting so long to get the NPR iPad app.

I spend less time driving a car these days and more time riding a bus, flying on a plane or working from home. The NPR iPad app is a great way to stay connected to my favorite news source, and it’s free! If you’re interested in an app that lets you live stream NPR radio anywhere there’s an Internet connection, keep playlists of stories for listening to later and read articles in a magazine-style format offline, keep reading …

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Getting Started

Enter the world of NPR and find an easy-to-navigate home screen designed to embrace the intuitive functionality of the iPad environment. This is where the magazine-style format comes into play, and Stories are organized into three categories: News, Arts & Life, and Music. Swiping right and left takes you through a selection of the latest Stories, which update every time you open the app. The Topics button in the top right corner allows you to customize feeds to be updated automatically when an Internet connection is present, so that the content is available to read offline. It’s important to note that audio is not available offline, only written content.

The home screen shows stories in three categories: News, Arts & Life, and Music that you can navigate through by swiping left and right.

The home screen shows stories in three categories: News, Arts & Life, and Music that you can navigate through by swiping left and right.

On the bottom of the Home screen you’ll find a navigation bar with several options. Tap Hourly News to listen to the latest Hourly News update from NPR radio (usually less than five minutes). The pause, rewind and fast forward buttons on the far left of the navigation bar allow you to manipulate whatever audio is currently playing.

Stories

The Stories on the home screen are from NPR.org; all include a written transcript, and some include audio from radio programming. Don’t think NPR is denying you the radio experience here, instead look at it as bonus content you can experience offline. Not all content NPR produces is for the radio. If the story contains audio, you’ll see the Listen Now button. If you would prefer to listen later, just tap + Add to Playlist. Below these buttons are options for sharing the story via Twitter, Facebook or email.

Tap on a story to read the transcript or listen to audio if available. You can also add the audio to a playlist and listen later.

Tap on a story to read the transcript or listen to audio if available. You can also add the audio to a playlist and listen later.

While a story is playing, you can leave the app and check your email, browse the Internet, etc. Turn off the screen and listen while doing the dishes, lifting weights or whatever it is you’re up to. You can even pause the story, turn off your iPad completely and resume it later. At the bottom of each story is a More Stories button, which allows you to browse other stories in the same category without leaving the page.

Listening to NPR Radio

Go to the persistent navigation bar at the bottom of the screen and tap Programs for Directory of NPR radio shows, such as Science Friday or Fresh Air. Programs are different from Stories, in that they are audio only, containing no written transcript. Also, an Internet connection is required to listen to any audio on the app, but the photos and written transcripts of Stories can be viewed offline.

View Programs by Title or Topic by tapping the preferred option at the top of the page. Tap the audio button of a specific episode to listen, or add it to your Playlist for later. Select the heart shape next to a Program title to Favorite it, moving it to the top of your program list.

Programs by Title are arrange by the program name, with favorites appearing at the top of the screen.

Programs by Title are arrange by the program name, with favorites appearing at the top of the screen.

View the Programs by Topic and you can Favorite radio Programs related to topics such as Food, Science, Technology, etc. The Favorite function is good because it personalizes the app, arranging content topics you’re interested in at the top of the page.

View Programs by Topic to prioritize the list based on your own interests, like I've done with Food, Books and Opinion.

View Programs by Topic to prioritize the list based on your own interests, like I’ve done with Food, Books and Opinion.

Whether you’re viewing by Title or Topic, the app alerts you if Programs are available to live stream with a red box labeled, On Air. Tap the box to find a local station and live stream the Program.

The NPR app alerts you to programs that are available to live stream. Tap the button to find a local station and listen live.

The NPR app alerts you to programs that are available to live stream. Tap the button to find a local station and listen live.

Find Your Favorite NPR Station

Tap the Stations button on the persistent navigation bar at the bottom of the screen to search for your Favorite Stations either by entering your Zip, City, State or Call Letters or by the Find Nearest, which uses your current location. This function is great for keeping a list of your favorite stations or finding local news while traveling.

I'm searching for my favorite local station in Denver, Colorado.

I’m searching for my favorite local station in Denver, Colorado.

Once the list appears, tap the heart next to a Station to make it a Favorite. Your Favorite Stations can always be found by tapping the Stations button.

Customize Your Playlist

One of the best parts of this app is the ability to collect and store audio stories in a Playlist. Find the Playlist button on the persistent navigation bar at the bottom of the screen — it’s the box with lines and dots. If you’ve added Programs to listen to, you’ll see a red circle with a number in it as a reminder.

Collect audio programs to listen to later in the Playlist.

Collect audio programs to listen to later in the Playlist.

Items are organized in two categories: New and History. If you’ve listened to a Program but haven’t deleted it, the audio is saved under History so you can refer to it again later. Newly added Programs appear at the top of the list. Tap the Edit button to rearrange the order of Programs by tapping and dragging, or to delete Programs by tapping the red circle. It’s great to be able to save up to 99 Programs in the Playlist, but disappointing that only the audio is saved. Even if a Program contained a written transcript, you can’t access it in the Playlist. It would be nice to see this functionality added to the app. Also, it’s inconvenient that Programs in the Playlist can only be deleted one at a time — no bulk action for the Delete button. NPR recognizes this and has intentions to correct it in future updates.

Conclusion

NPR is a nonprofit public media company offering a free app to share content from their website and radio programs in a rich, magazine-style format on the iPad. NPR devotees who don’t spend much time in a car listening to radio will appreciate the regularly updating news feeds and live radio streaming, as well as the ability to personalize the app, prioritizing favorite programs and collecting stories in the playlist.

The biggest flaw with the NPR app is its tendency to crash occasionally, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. A mixture of photographs, audio and written transcripts displayed in an easy to navigate mobile environment allows users a bird’s eye view of the content. The NPR app brings the content to life, making it easier to enjoy the unique stories and engaging news coverage that NPR is known for.


Summary

NPR for iPad lets you live stream NPR radio anywhere there’s an Internet connection, keep playlists of stories for listening to later and read articles in a magazine-style format offline.

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