XFM for iPhone review

Amongst the rumours floating around the Internet prior to launch of the iPhone 3G S was the addition of an FM radio. It might have sounded like a retrograde step for Apple and of course it never happened. However, listening to radio on your iPhone and iPod touch is still possible, with thousands of channels streaming content online.

XFM for iPhone is one of a handful of free applications from Global Radio that aim to ease the process of listening online. Click on the XFM icon, once downloaded, and after a brief period of buffering the station starts playing. Anyone who has followed XFM from the early days will know it has had a varied history. Unfortunately, officially launching the day after the death of Princess Diana, it enjoyed a fertile first year of eclectic electric playlists that generated little in the way of income until the then Capital Radio group bought it out, ending many of XFM's signature specialist shows.

After a flirtation with mainstream mediocrity it has now settled down into a familiar format showcasing the best in alternative music. "XFM believes that our listeners want the best new music and they want to hear it first," runs the station's blurb. "From our specialist shows with expert presenters to exclusive sessions from the biggest and future stars to our music mix we believe we deliver on this like no other station can."

The XFM iPhone application promises to keep you informed about who's on-air, who's on next, what tracks you're listening to and more, but when we've listened we've had to make do with just a static XFM logo and handy volume control. Were not certain if this is a temporary glitch or a feature that has yet to implemented but track listings and the like would be a useful addition. Unlike iTunes, for example, you need to keep the application open to continue listening.

Global Radio offers similar applications for a range of channels and shows, including Big Top 40, 95.8 Capital FM, Classic FM, Galaxy, Gold, Heart and London speech station LBC 97.3. Sadly there is no application for the regional XFM Manchester, which offers a choice of original local content. Global Radio adds that as the application can download "significant volumes of data" users should check their provider’s data plan limits before extended listening.

OUR VERDICT

Global Radio has done a good job in providing iPhone and iPod touch users the ability to tune into a range of stations without the need to fire up Safari. For anyone who loves independent and left field music XFM proves an excellent choice. The one main niggle is that you have to leave the icon open so you cannot surf the Internet or check email without, temporarily at least, interrupting your listening pleasure.

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