Livio Radio Car Internet Radio; Or The Tale Of The App Who Said Radio Once Too Often

It isn’t too often that I totally disagree with the title of an App, but this time I can’t hold back one iota. It’s confusing in reality because it’s referred to by this long, stringed together title that is actually it’s real name, the one you’d search for in the AppStore, and the name that is plastered all over the App itself. Though the confusion a customer might have concerning what to actually call the App is the least of it’s worries. The short list today is going to be all about the following three things; The User Interface, the ease of use, and the over all performance of the App. I won’t take up any time on the sound quality because that’s going to be something that would be largely the responsibility of the internet station that you tap into using this App, and not so much the App itself. I will say this much though, for the most part, the sound isn’t really lacking in any way that I would fault the App for. So, let’s get this thing started.

The first thing I’d like to direct your attention away from is the considerably ugly GUI. The App has a GUI that only a mother could love, and even then I suspect she’s just responding to societal peer pressure. The main GUI is not too bad looking, but it is odd and disjointed. The color scheme is easy on the eyes in low light conditions, which would be favorable for driving at night. It’s all black with white text or dull colors, such as the red number that indicates which of station presets that you are listening to. It also features (both in landscape and portrait orientations), a scrolling title bar, and some preset buttons, as well as an odd little homage to the old dashboard radio tuners. This tuner can also serve to “dial in” a stations quick access number. Some of my more prevalent complaints about the GUI include the following; First there is no reason for there to be a version number on the front end of the App, seriously none. Secondly, I know there are trying to do some brand advertising by putting the name of the company who made the App in the upper right hand corner, but this is where part of the confusion comes in about what to call the App. If they put something in front of it like, “powered by”, or “brought to you by”, and then their name – then one might not be confused by it. Another complaint about the GUI is that the odd radio dial looking thing only takes up a portion of the screen, and then there is (what I assume is) a station ID tag next to it. This arrangement would be fine if they looked like they were meant to be there, but it gives off the impression that the tuner was supposed to go all the way across and then they changed their minds and just squeezed in this ID thing next to it, and didn’t even bother to frame it like they had the tuner. Some things have frames others don’t, and that’s a problem. It makes things look messy. The Menu button brings up a few more buttons for your fingers to dance over, this portion looks like it was put together well. There is a browse stations button, a favorites button, phone (which is supposed to be for quick dialing), Settings, and share. The first of these buttons allows you to do what you would expect, browse for stations – though the stations are limited unless you pay them for the upgrade fee. The free station list isn’t really all that bad, there are a few good stations that i’ve been able to find, but if you wanna stream that really awesome radio station from Seattle you listened to the last time you were there, you’ll have to pay for the upgrade. Share allows you to post on twitter, on face book, and do something that isn’t sharing at all – play the station in the background. Don’t get too excited though, I’ll touch on why this isn’t as good as it sounds in the next section. Browsing is easy enough, and if you like the station, just long press on one of the empty presets, and the screen will flash to indicate it’s been saved. This is a nice and easy way of doing it. One could also add the current station through the favorites tab in the menu, but this method is a little less clear. You have to open the list, then click an empty spot and then click the plus symbol in the top right. I would have done it the opposite way myself, in fact that’s what I tried first, that didn’t work out too well. There are no play or pause buttons to be found in the main interface by the way. This isn’t too bad, but it makes you wonder what to do if you’re not interested in your grandmother hearing the chorus of Nine Inch Nails “Closer”. To accomplish a pause, you have to tap the scrolling title bar, again to resume play. The little “i” icon is where they cram some support features, but it’s nothing to worry about.

Ease of use is a big issue with some Apps, and I’m glad to report it’s not such here. Even though the App is not really pretty or flashy, and could frankly benefit from a consultation from Johnny Ive, this App still remains simple to use. In landscape, you have five presets, in portrait you have six, and a menu button. Couldn’t be simpler. The Pause/Play button thingy isn’t much of an issue for streaming, but you might not know it’s there unless you are a reviewer like me and grope at your iPhone like a young boy gropes blindly at his young girlfriend… or was that a pillow? The stations are clearly labeled, usually with a name, a number, and if possible a clue about content. The iPhone lends itself to being very user friendly because almost everything you see is either a button or something to read. So, if you see a station you want, just touch it and the App takes care of the rest. I already explained that the front end makes setting presets simple. Though I didn’t find any place that it said to do that, I just tried it because that’s how you do it in my crappy car. I didn’t find anything really to complain about the ease of use here other than the tuner is a little odd. I suppose if you bought the upgrade you would use it like an old analog tuner and just slide through the dial. If you tap instead of slide, you get a number pad to input a six digit code that will pull up a station that corresponds to the code. This is good if you find that you have more favorites than just six.

Next up is over-all performance. I was pleased with this App when I was connected to 3G. Relatively fast connection, little buffering, and the sound quality on the stations I tuned into was good. Being constantly connected to the internet though it eats up battery life even faster than using the iPod App, but that’s sort of par for the course, as it were. I have an iPhone running iOs 4 and it can do background audio, though pressing the forward button doesn’t skip tracks, but stations on your preset dial. I mentioned that if you click on the share button you can do something isn’t sharing in truth. For the hold outs who haven’t updated, or were left behind, and are running something less than iOs 4 you can click on the “backgrounding” option and it will launch the browser, which will play it in the background as long as you have safari open. So, this means you can visit my reviews page (insert soul-less self promotion here), or your favorite authors blog page, while listening to the radio. I’ve not really tested out how well this works because I don’t have an iDevice that isn’t running iOs 4, but if anyone wants to test it and comment on it for me, that’d be helpful. On Wi-Fi I had some buffering problems. I have a stable DSL connection at home, and even on Wi-Fi, I was getting skips like I was listening to my old Cd-player boom box while being shoved into the trunk of a Cadillac that is driving down a bumpy gravel road. Ok, maybe now isn’t the time to bring up that summer when that guy did that thing…. nah. I’ll let that one go.

So, how does this App measure up? Where does it stand after all of my tinkering? Well, pretty good in some place, and not so good in others. I would have to say that as a free App, it’s not too bad. Is there anything here that would make me pay for an upgrade? I would have to say no. Not at $4.99 in any case. There is no way to access a specific band, or song, there is no way to access free internet streams of my favorite local radio station. With free Apps out there like Pandora, and I (heart) radio, and even to some extent lastFM, I see no real reason to pay for the upgrade. Before I give it another look, and I mean that literally, I’d have to see some SERIOUS changes to the GUI. I will say this about it though, White Text on Black, really was the best choice for the GUI just the same when you consider that it was intended for inside of your car, and night driving would seriously be hampered by a brightly colored GUI. So, that being said, I’ll give this App a 7 out of 10. It’s a solid App, but it needs a good look over, and that paid upgrade needs to drop down to a slightly more reasonable price if it’s not going to do anything but give me features that another App would give me for free.

App rated on a ten point scale.

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