can you stream online radio on your phone while walking?
June 22, 2010 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Using your smartphone, can you listen to online live radio while walking around your city? I'm trying to do this (with my iPhone, in Paris) and it only works if I stay in one place; if I move more than about 500m, it usually disconnects. I'm curious to know if others have the same experience so that I can determine if it's my carrier, the phone, the city, or just general limitations of 3G GSM networks. (Note: I'm not talking about Pandora or Spotify; I'm referring specifically to live radio streams which can't buffer minutes ahead).

More info in case it matters: I'm on SFR, which supposedly has the best 3G network in Paris. Also, it does work on rare occasions; I've streamed for over an hour while covering half the city before, but in 95% of cases I can't walk more than 5 minutes without having to relaunch the stream. There are some "dead zones" in the city where there is only GPRS coverage, but I'm not counting these because it's normal to expect the stream to disconnect in these cases.
posted by helios to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
An app called FStream does this job well on an iPod Touch via WiFi – I can't speak for its success over 3G. Worth a try.
posted by him at 10:01 AM on June 22, 2010

Oh, and it's free. Which is nice.
posted by him at 10:01 AM on June 22, 2010

Shifts in the type of data connection you get (e.g., 3G to EDGE and vice-versa) tend to kill the stream. But that said, hell, I've been able to do it while driving, with the phone then Bluetooth streaming the audio to my car stereo. It's quite lovely.

(This is on a Nexus One, but I don't see why it can't be done on an iPhone. Not my first-generation iPhone, of course, but 3G and later.)
posted by CommonSense at 10:14 AM on June 22, 2010

I have listened to whole live baseball games on my iPhone 3G while barreling down the freeway in Southern California with very few hiccups. MLB At Bat seems to be a pretty stout app though. I've had similar success with streaming while traveling at high speeds using Pandora (noted: large buffer size). And this is on AT&T!

As CommonSense points out, shifting between networks definitely can cause momentary drops in the stream, but it hasn't always done so in my experience. Since I'm using a cheap FM transmitter to get the sound to my car stereo, even with no drop I can definitely tell when it's switched to EDGE because of the nasty RF interference. 3G is clear as a bell.

I'm wondering what app you're using to do the streaming. Seems like that might have more to do with the problem than the network. Have you tried tuning to the same stations using several different apps?
posted by donmateo at 10:37 AM on June 22, 2010

Response by poster: I'm using various apps, including Safari's built-in streaming. They all seem to perform equally poorly, with the exception of Wunderradio which can occasionally recover the stream after a 2-3 second drop (whereas the others just dropout completely and I have to manually go to the app to stop and restart the stream).

But even with Wunderradio, the average listening time before dropping out completely is around 10 minutes, versus 3-5 minutes with the others. (I'll see if FStream works any better).
posted by helios at 10:57 AM on June 22, 2010

While you try out FStream, you might consider comparing it to TuneIn Radio which is what I've been using. I'm on WiFi only so can't report anything about how well it behaves on 3G, but from what I've seen so far I imagine it's performance is probably as good as or better than FStream.
posted by christopherious at 11:02 AM on June 22, 2010

Even though I'm on AT&T and calls drop and stuff, when I'm listening to streaming radio (mostly with an the app the radios station offers) it works almost as well as catching it with an FM radio. I also use an app called Tuner which has a bunch of stations including some of my favorites. It does buffer slightly so hiccups are minimized. It also allows you to enter the URL of the stream (provided it sin't a Real Player or other non-iPhone friendly format). I got the app right after I got my iPhone 3G years ago and haven't looked at newer offerings since but TuneIn sounds like it would do the trick if I had to get something today.
posted by birdherder at 11:33 AM on June 22, 2010

I've done this quite often while driving. iPhone 3GS in Calgary, Canada using ooTunes. Never had any streaming/buffering issues.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:44 AM on June 22, 2010

I stream KGSR to my Droid around Chicago (the land that independent radio forgot) via A Online Radio and haven't had any problems. I don't know if that will help you, as it's a different phone and different network, but thought I'd throw in my data point.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 2:31 PM on June 22, 2010

I use tune in radio as mentioned above almost solely on 3G rather than wifi, it's pretty consistent, however I'm in the UK so YMMV.
posted by ellieBOA at 4:33 PM on June 22, 2010

Response by poster: Just to followup: Since I asked this question, I've upgraded to an iPhone 4, and it has completely resolved this problem! I've listened to online radio for about 3-4 hours total while walking over the past two days, and it has only dropped the connection once. Seems that in general, the reliability of cellular data is much better than both my 3GS and the 3G before that. Anyway, thanks for the responses!
posted by helios at 5:36 AM on June 26, 2010

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