Internet Radio Apps – Tips & Tricks for Successful Implementation

Feb 27, 2019

An intense workout, a relaxing walk, a lazy day at home… What could they possibly have in common? We are pretty sure the answer will be “good music”. And what is the easiest way to get it than to turn on your favorite radio station using a mobile device?

Internet radio apps like iHeartRadio, Spotify or Pandora allow you to listen to over 1,000 radio stations and choose from the widest range of music genres. Are you searching for new tracks? A single touch of the screen will help you discover your city’s radio stations or those at the other end of the world. In addition, you can also follow your favorite podcasts and download the most intriguing episodes for offline use.

Now, as never before, it became extremely easy to hold your finger on the pulse of the music world, all thanks to internet radio. This medium is gaining more and more popularity among smartphone owners, and mobile is the driver of growth and future of listening. XappMedia research shows that mobile radio has obviously strong trends:

  • 79 % of music listening time occurs on internet radio,
  • 95 % of internet radio listeners access it via mobile devices,
  • 67 % of all music listeners access streaming services on a weekly basis,
  • over $ 4 billion profit only by advertising (subscription is not included into these calculations).

Still need evidence?

How about the fact that you are no longer limited by the antenna? Internet access is the only requirement for listeners to stay in touch with their favorite station. Hence, they are reachable 24 hours a day, because most people have their smartphone nearby all day through. From now on, the whole world is your field of opportunities.

A person who is interested in listening to radio does not have to buy new equipment or subscribe to expensive services. This attracts more listeners at a faster rate and channels you to audiences that traditional radio couldn’t find its way to. In addition, the technological development has made it easier to enjoy music while multitasking.

Path to success

There are certain issues you need to consider for your app to prosper.

Licensing

Legal music streaming services require legal audio content. Even media giants find it rather expensive to stream music all over the world. So, the first thing you need to think about is where your application will be available. Then find out how much you’ll have to pay for the music license and calculate whether your app income will cover such investments.

Streaming

One of the topical issues in radio app development is where you will stream the music from, what database you will use and where you are going to store this huge amount of information. Instead of buying tons of hardware, it is more sensible to use a cloud to host your server and data. What is also advisable to take into account is the technology you want to use to implement a streaming feature, since it dictates the architecture you’ll need to build. One should not forget the core parameters such as speed and quality of the streamed audio. They depend on many factors such as file type, transmission protocol, encoding method, streaming system, etc. The developers of music streaming apps choose and set the above parameters on their own. The choice is mainly determined by the mobile platform and is app specific.

User interface design

As for radio industry, it is clear that only its content really attracts and keeps audience engaged. When it comes to deciding what should go into the mobile app, you should not try to fit everything in. This can result in an app that is difficult to navigate because it’s overloaded with features that listeners don’t really care about or need. Hence, a simple and intuitive UI, a few really useful features and stability – that’s all you need for a successful launch.

Cross-platform functionality

What better way to show how much you care about your audience than to give them the choice of their OS and devices? Get your hands on the latest technology to bring the best out of your content. A newcomer under the name React.Native may come in handy in this case, since it allows to create one app which can run on different platforms simultaneously.

It’s not about smartphones only

While smartphones are one of the most promising devices for radio stations, they are far from being the only option. As more cars roll off the assembly line with Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto controlling the dashboard, radio stations need in-car apps to maintain their presence in vehicles. With smart TVs and home streaming devices like Apple TV penetrating more homes, radio stations will want to be available there as well.

Looking back with honor

When working on iHeart’s project, our software developers had to create a free user-friendly application which would secure fast customer growth and have advantage over market competitors. The project covered three major products – iHeartRadio, iHeartRadio Family and iHeartRadio for Auto. It goes without saying that each of them presented a considerable challenge for our software development firm. For instance, the flagship iHeartRadio app was packed with nuances that required special attention such as interaction with media content, its storage on the device, analytics, rich animation, in-app purchases, etc. iHeartRadio Family was designed to be an easy-to-use radio application for kids, with radio shows specifically chosen to be entertaining, educational and safe. No wonder that there were a lot of animated sprites to make the app as attractive for children as possible.

The greatest challenge was posed by iHeartRadio for Auto, an online radio app specially designed for use in vehicles. The car market is extremely diverse, with many manufacturers of car stereos (Kenwood, JVC, Sony) having their own SDKs, and there is no single standard or product, which complicates work for a custom software development firm both in terms of development and testing. Our experience in using diversified products and tools and awareness of weak spots was a major advantage for our team.

With the advent of mobile listening through smartphones, the focus shifted to the car being a place where most radio content was consumed and Internet radio was absent. Surely, the number of Internet-connected cars will be constantly increasing, thus presenting a whole bunch of new possibilities for companies that develop mobile applications. Here, one should not forget that the primary focus must be safe driving, and if the content within your app is visually oriented or the tasks required to navigate your app do not translate logically to voice commands and available buttons on the dashboard, your app will fail car manufacturers’ testing. Take care to follow safety instructions when envisioning your app and investigate which functions and behavior are allowed and (or) forbidden by car manufacturers and which best practices you should follow. For example, manual text input in the app or interactive advertising when driving can hardly be found in any in-car app.

Our Qulix team worked in close collaboration with the in-house team. Our engineers had to create a solid and scalable architecture for the new application. As the service gained popularity, the system needed to flexibly adjust to the load increase. The client emphasized seamless operation and excellent service quality. Developers needed to quickly fix the defects, ensure stable work of the app and keep the client updated on the progress.

Choosing the right team

As our team noted, one of the most crucial issues in the development process was scattered and interrupted communication due to different time zones. When our business day was over, our American colleagues only came to work. Apart from other issues, this one should certainly be taken into consideration when looking for a software development team.

Well-established communication processes solve uprising problems faster and provide instant feedback. Even though there is a great variety of software solutions for remote work, the lack of communication is still a major drawback of a distributed team. If all team members are from different countries or even continents, it’s a big chance that they will struggle with managing time zones. In this case, it will be extremely hard to schedule meetings and solve problems quickly.

In addition, it should be underlined that if you have ready-made SDKs, it can certainly make life easier for software developers. However, if it contains errors, you will have to find ways to bypass them and/or wait until the SDK developer fixes it. Thus, hiring several teams may be both prolific and messy.

Double-check it

No matter how well the work is done, you should check your app before launching. Of course, testing is usually conducted throughout development. However, final system testing and quality assurance are essential.

Normally, QA engineers do not detect any critical bugs at this stage. All of them are expected to be found and fixed at a previous stage of working on the project. Instead, they focus their attention on the elaboration of non-standard user behavior scenarios and elimination of minor imperfections.

No pain, no gain

Today, almost everybody has a smartphone or any other mobile device. However, standard browsers and a small screen do not provide convenient access to the radio station’s website, which led to the increase in mobile app development for online radio, solving this problem and creating a great deal of new possibilities. An app provides a simplified and a more pleasant tool to access information from any place in the world if you have a mobile device. The large and growing audiences and favorable demographics – all point to a sector that is here to stay and will provide value for its users for many years to come.

Our project group had to overcome a few obstacles throughout the duration of iHeart’s project, ranging from limitations of our own capabilities to the feasibility of all the application’s features. As a result, the client launched new mobile products and kept them updated. The main service reached 70 million registered users in only 4 years. It makes iHeartRadio fastest-growing music streaming service, surpassing its close competitors – Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora. We continue cooperation with the client on several initiatives. Today’s trend in internet radio are podcasts, and iHeartMedia is securing exclusive rights for some of them.

Still have questions? We already have an expertise in building radio and music streaming apps for our clients. Feel free to reach out at request@qulix.com. More information is available on our website.

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