Minnesota Public Radio is easily the best NPR affiliate I’ve ever listened to. Not only is their schedule of NPR, PRI, BBC, CBC and in-studio programming superb, they offer three distinct listening options — MPR News, MPR Classical, and The Current. This avoids the trap so many NPR stations fall into where they schedule 3-4 hours of news or discussion during the day and fill the rest with classical music or jazz. I also have to give MPR credit for having one of the least annoying pledge drives in all of public broadcasting. Rather than harp on and on about specific numbers, they’ve learned that people are going to give what they give. So instead of asking for specific pledge amounts, Minnesota Public Radio does a member drive. They set goals on the number of contributing members they’ll add to their ranks at each drive, regardless of what each member gives. This drive, they’ll be adding me. Not that NPR doesn’t already deserve my financial support, but this app is above and beyond.

Having played with the app all day, it’s pretty impressive. Not only is it able to stream good quality audio across my slow Edge network connection, but I can turn off my display and the audio keeps flowing. Battery usage doesn’t seem to be any different than just listening to music normally. Interruptions to the Edge network will mean a loss of the feed, but that’s not much of a surprise and not MPR’s fault. What the app does lack is any sort of recognition that the stream has been interrupted, or better, any automatic reestablishment of the audio. My other dislike is that you can’t leave the app running, return to the home screen, and then do something else on the iPhone, such as surf the web. Once you hit the home button, the app closes and the audio feed stops. I imagine this has to do with the way Apple has structured apps to run on the iPhone to conserve network usage and battery life. Hardly a deal breaker or a bug, but would be nice to have.

Regardless of where you are in the country or the world, I highly recommend picking up MPR’s free app. It will get you plugged into a great NPR affiliate and give you fresh content when you’ve grown tired of what’s on your iPod.

Final Rating: 9/10

The app is FREE!
The interface is clean, simple, and free of ads or begging
Three stations in one app
Works on Edge

Doesn’t reestablish audio if the stream is lost
Can’t do anything else with the iPhone while the app is running

Nathaniel Salzman