updated 04:45 pm EST, Mon January 26, 2009
First Look NPR Mobile
Even if you're a regular National Public Radio (NPR) listener, there's a chance you won't catch your favorite shows during the day. Many NPR stations offer podcasts, but if you're not keen on manually hunting for files and loading them onto a media player, you can let a program like the NPR Mobile iPhone app do the work for you.
Written in spare time by a software engineer and volunteer firefighter, the app links directly into the official NPR application programming interface (API) for NPR's normal XML-based distribution.
While not officially affiliated with NPR, the app lets you find NPR stations, listen to streaming audio live, and access podcasts of previously-broadcast episodes, wherever you happen to be. Users load the program, tap the Current Location button -- or type in a city or zip code -- and browse a list of the NPR stations in a particular area.
After you select a station, you can listen to a live stream via Wi-Fi, view a show schedule, or browse through the podcast libraries of popular shows such as These Days to find episodes you may have missed.
One nice feature is the ability to bookmark show segments, so you can listen to part of a show, bookmark a spot, and then do something else with your iPhone until you're ready to resume playback from the same point.
Another useful feature is the ability to search for content via keywords. If you want to find all NPR stories about the economy for example, you can just type in "economy" to pop up a list of any relevant segments. Each segment has a text summary, saving time on unnecessary downloads.
The app is of course useless if you don't plan to listen to NPR, but diehard fans will find it handy for staying in touch with their favorite programs while on the road.