TuneIn, already available on most smartphone platforms, today launches as a free mobile application for Microsoft Windows Phone 7 handsets. The software streams Internet radio from more than 50,000 AM and FM radio stations over Wi-Fi or a mobile broadband connection. One key difference in the Windows Phone 7 version is that the application integrates with the handset’s internal FM radio to save battery life or listen to local radio programs that could be blocked on the web.
TuneIn is now available on practically all mobile platforms: iOS, BlackBerry, Android, Palm, and even Samsung’s Bada operating system. But among those, Windows Phone 7 is the only smartphone platform that requires an FM radio tuner in handsets. The radio requirement is a “nice to have” feature in my opinion, although some likely couldn’t do without it, and the younger generation wonder how we ever lived before iTunes. It’s clever of TuneIn to leverage the lower-powered radio, so users can shift from Internet to local airwaves and listen longer. And the app can be used exclusively with the integrated FM radio without using up mobile broadband data.
Aside from the new hybrid listening feature specific to Microsoft smartphones, TuneIn offers several key features for all platforms. Search for an artist or song, for example, and the software returns all of the stations currently playing either. A handset’s GPS will find local stations — useful while traveling. Podcasts too are supported by the app, so you can carry around and listen to your favorite mobile technology show.
An app that uses the FM tuner of a smartphone isn’t going to set Windows Phone 7 handsets apart from the pack, or boost handset sales, by any means. However, I do wonder if the FM radio will make a comeback in future phones on other platforms. Internet radio is certainly ubiquitous these days, but as we begin to pay for the data that we use, thanks to tiered data plans, that good ol’ fashioned traditional radio could rise in value.