Clearchannel’s iHeartRadio wants to win your ear over by smartly integrating its competitors winning features. This free streaming service combines the customization offered by Slacker Radio, the live radio presence of Sirius XM, and the mood-centric selections of Songza (now acquired by Google) into one application. It endeavors to appeal to every user, falling short only because of the clumsy interface and the lack of some key features.
iHeartRadio is live
Like SiriusXM, iHeartRadio is focused on live streams. Its home screen features an impressive genres grid, cordially inviting you to “tell ‘em what you like”. Choices include Top 40 & Pop, Soft Rock, Comedy, Oldies, Jazz, plus 15 additional genres. Improving upon Slacker’s more cluttered interface, iHeartRadio won’t crowd you with updates from social media. Simply create your preferences by selecting your favorite genre and pressing Get Stations button. This effectively tailors iHeartRadio to your own personal tastes.
For example, clicking on Comedy and Oldies will bring you an array of relevant live stations like George Carlin, the Bee Gees and FM 103.7 Classics. Finding what you want in terms of audio is simple, but the design of the website is seemingly dated. A revamping of the interface would put the station on par with both Slacker and Spotify, if only aesthetically speaking.
Those looking for a music discovery experience inherent in every live radio will enjoy the button Scan, which prompts iHeartRadio to play related stations. Tracks are accompanied by artist’s name and song title, which is helpful for future reference. Lyrics and bands bios are also present as an added bonus. The ability to like or ban tracks (a la Pandora Radio) can only be unlocked by logging in. iHeartRadio makes it easy to grow your personal music library with the opportunity to purchase tracks directly from Amazon, Google Play or iTunes. But again, you’ll need to sign in to enjoy those features.
And there’s lots of it
As with its competitors, iHeartRadio offers you a vast assortment of curated music. It boasts 20 genres, more than 400,000 artists with over 12 million songs, allowing you to find even the most obscure artists with ease. For the considerably less obscure Justin Beiber or One Direction stations you’ll need to sign in or create an account. Unfortunately, the ability to create playlists or rewind live streams is not currently available.
Even though you won’t be able to create your own playlist, iHeartRadio can save you from silence with its mood-centric stations to soundtrack your day. Need to impress a coworker? They have a playlist to make it happen. Having a girls’ night out? They’ll get you in the right space. Suffering a hangover from said girls’ night out? Yeah, they’ve got you covered there too.
It plays like this
You can expect smoothly streamed tunes, though artist stations are understandably crisper than their live counterparts. And neither can stand up to Tidal’s uncompromised FLAC audio with its tidy 1,411 Kbps, but that quality will cost you $19.99 a month.
iHeartRadio does bring a robust catalog to the party, but it isn’t without its quirks or shortcomings. Though managing to offer a former Tidal exclusive, Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, it inexplicably lacks Taylor Swift’s popular 1989 album. In step with Pandora Internet Radio, iHeartRadio won’t simply stream the specific song you request, rather a station is built based on your requests. But this seems to be a reasonable byproduct of their freely offered service. In contrast to Pandora, iHeartRadio does not offer a premium membership to bypass ads or limitlessly skip songs.
Rounding out their repertoire, iHeartRadio also offers news and events. The News section will keep you informed on happenings in the music world, and the Events portion promotes upcoming performances or highlights from recent iHeartRadio events.
Will you love it?
If you enjoy the energy of live radio coupled with curated spontaneity of new tracks, then you’ll love iHeartRadio. What’s more, you’ll enjoy all the music your can handle without paying a dime. If you’re looking for more premium features, such as playlist creation, ad skipping, or lifestyles content, then a paid service like Spotify or Slacker Radio may suit you better.