App Review: NPR News

December 28, 2009
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    NPR has recently, in conjunction with a Google employee, released a news app for the Android Market.  The application’s backstory is interesting. Google employee Michael Frederick approached NPR with the idea of creating an app for them during the 20% of his workweek in which Google allows all employees to work on any one project that they desire.  What has birthed from this is a semi-robust app encompassing news, podcasts, and search functions relating to NPR programming.  Hit the jump for an in depth look.

    Officially named “NPR News”, this app is described by NPR with the following bullet points:

    · Backgrounding. The NPR News app for Android allows background play, so that users can click to listen to audio and then toggle between applications as the audio is playing. It also uses open source code, allowing developers to iterate and improve the app in the future.

    · Listen and Read. Allows users to listen to programs and read news at the same time.

    · Extensive Topics section. News section showcases NPR’s top 10-20 topics of the day, ranging from Science to Books to World News.

    · NPR station listening choices. Easy to find and bookmark more than 600 favorite NPR stations and hundreds of station on-demand streams. Live station streaming to launch in Spring 2010.

    · Playlist. Bookmark favorite programs to play later.

    NPR News Homepage

    In a nutshell, the bullet points summarize the multitasking function which doesn’t really serve a great purpose.  Can anyone really read one article and listen to another at the same time while actively understanding both?  This app is a standard rendition of a mobile site turned app for speedier delivery of content and it does this fairly well.  You can expect to search for stories by title, date, and category, with the ability to add articles for your listening pleasure to your playlist.  You can also search for NPR stations around the nation by call sign, zip code, or your location, but this is where the app starts to fall short.

    Local radio station finder

    As stated by NPR’s bullet points, there is no streaming content support yet and it really hurts this app to have launched without it.  It’s easier to subscribe to podcasts, which a majority of NPR’s national programming is, then to check this app daily and add items to your playlist.  Also, when searching for local stations, most don’t have any listening options available or, if they do have podcasts, it reverts to the national programming taking away any appeal of the local mentality.  Another downfall is that about half of the news stories listed daily are only articles, with no listening option or ability to add to your playlist, making that feature useless for those articles.

    Note the articles with bullet points. You're not able to listen to those

    The app promises to add streaming support as well as a special call button in Spring 2010, but until then, this is a glorified version of the mobile site and it is easier to subscribe to your favorite NPR national podcasts via Google Listen or Stitcher for your daily news and NPR programming needs.  You can download NPR News from the Android Market for free.

    QR Code for NPR News

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