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Road Tripping Without Radio

Emily reviews the NPR One app

With the exception of apple pie, there is nothing more American than a road trip.

However, these drives are a nightmare without radio. The entertainment system in my boyfriend’s car recently died, which means no FM, no AM, no CDs, no noise whatsoever is going to emanate from the speakers of that vehicle.

And that is a terrifying thought when you have three hours of guaranteed bumper-to-bumper traffic in store.

Enter the miracle of the smartphone.

I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy S4, which has a decent set of speakers but no FM chip (I’m an AT&T customer, for better or for worse). I’ve downloaded a few music apps: Pandora, Songza, Play Music — none of which have ever impressed me for long stretches.

At the end of July, NPR launched its new NPR One app, and I downloaded it when the buzz began. However, I had yet to actually open the app — after all, I why would I use up valuable data when I could just listen to my local NPR affiliate via FM radio in the car or play its live stream on my laptop at home?

Well, the opportunity finally presented itself two weeks ago, and I’m so glad that it did.

NPR One’s no muss, no fuss interface enabled me to start listening to what it accurately identified as my local station — WAMU(FM) — as soon as I launched the app.

I enjoyed the ability to rate segments as interesting (or not) and to skip stories that I’d heard earlier in the day.

But my favorite feature was the pause button. It meant that we heard that Maryam Mirzakhani was named as the first female recipient of the Fields Prize— and could immediately discuss the significance of this — without missing other segments or waiting for a sponsor announcement.

I won’t pretend that NPR One revolutionized the way that I listen to radio. I still listen the old fashioned way on my commute in my car, but in situations where I don’t have access to a traditional radio or where I can’t receive WAMU, I’ve definitely been converted. I just wish there were a comparable desktop interface for this app!