May 8, 2014

TuneIn Radio: adding features until it breaks

There was a nifty mobile app that let me find and play radio stations from around the world. Some of the stations are terrestrial stations that stream their broadcasts on the Internet, while others are Internet-only. The app was called TuneIn. The developers released a new version this week and they broke it.
Let me say at the outset that I had no quarrel with TuneIn radio. I’ve been a paying customer for a couple of years, used it on my Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and desktop systems. I have a bunch of stations saved as favorites, mostly world news, but some music, and one very special Goon Show channel. The developers have fixed bugs in the time that I’ve used the app, smoothing out the playback, and making it of the apps that I use several times a day. It might have been nice to allow me the option to reorder my list of favorites, such that I could have my favorite favorites on the top, but that was a minor issue.
Here’s what they did. They redesigned it, as Nicole Lee from Engadget wrote, to be a social network for radio. I can now follow other TuneIn users to find out what they listen to. Through some kind of social magic, I can supposedly find music that is more to my liking, find new stations that are something like the stations I’ve been listening to, only better somehow.
In the words of the Tom Hanks character in Big, I don’t get it. I liked what the app did. The developers thought that I had a problem finding things that I liked. I didn’t.
Along the way, they made it harder for me to do what I used to do: listen to radio stations. Here’s how they broke it.
Here’s a partial view of my favorite stations.

If I tap on Goon Show Radio, I’m brought to s second screen.

Now, I have to tap the Play button to have the station start. Previously, I’d been brought to the player and the station would start playing.

When I tap Play, I’m brought to the player screen. I’m not sure where to go from here. Tapping the checkmark removes this station from my list of favorites. Why that should be prominently featured as an option, I have no idea. Non-intuitively, tapping the X closes this screen and brings me back to the station page.

In other words, an extra step has been added each time I want to when I use the app, to listen to a radio station. 
There’s a whole bunch of other stuff, including solicitations to connect to my Twitter, Facebook, and Google accounts. I’ve done none of that. I didn’t have a problem for which connections to my social media accounts is a solution. 

Zawinski’s Law told us in the 90s that every program expands until it can read mail. The twenty-teen version of the law says that every app must become social and die trying.

Addendum
I installed the new TuneIn on my iPad to see what a fresh installation looks like when compared to the upgrade. I forgot my password and so clicked on the Forgot Password link. That was five hours ago. If I try again, I’m told that a reset request is already underway.