Review: Listen Again

Listen Again is a third party app that lets you play back many of the BBC radio shows that have aired in the last seven days. It's not an official BBC app, but it gets the job done, albeit with a few quirks along the way.

Author: Austin Donnelly

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Contrasting with Radio Lounge, which provides a live stream of many stations from around the UK, including the main BBC stations, BBC local stations, and some of the major independent stations, Listen Again focuses on the first set, along with the national Radio stations such as Radio Ulster and Radio Scotland.

Once you have selected a station, you'll be presented with the days of programming that are available to you (generally about seven days worth of content), and drilling into a day, you get the individual programs on show. From there, it's a simple matter to choose the Ken Bruce show you missed this morning and listen again. This is a perfectly serviceable way to go about the navigation in the app, but it's not pretty in any sense of the word. When you're looking to have the functionality and nothing more, that's acceptable, but I expect more from my apps nowadays.

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Where the interface is tricky to use is when you want to fast forward or jump to a specific point in a show (such as Popmaster, which is one hour into the aforementioned Ken Bruce show). Your only option is to hold down the ffwd key - even though there is a progress bar, you can't use this as a slider to scrub the audio to the right point.

In most cases though that's not going to be a huge issue, as you'll be tuning in for a specific programme, not just one segment, but there are times when you'll skip out of a show and want to come back. Unfortunately Listen Again doesn't remember the last show or location you were listening to, if you've switched away to music or to listen to another audio app.

This is probably the biggest technical flaw of Listen Again, and it's a shame because it gets everything else right. It integrates itself as a music app in the Music+video hub; it uses the regular media playback controls for pausing, playing and volume control; and it will happily carry on streaming in the background and under the lock screen as you work. That's a win.

Of course, in all of this there's the worry that the BBC are going to realise what's going on, and in the same way they applied some (perfectly correct) legal pressure to the BBC News and BBC Radio Player apps, they're going to look at Listen Again and think... 'no'. This would be perfectly fine for me if the iPlayer Radio app currently on Android and iOS made the jump to Windows Phone, but given that the BBC Weather app hasn't even made it to an iPad, let alone Windows Phone, I don't hold out much hope for a long and glorious life over here.

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Listen Again makes use of the streams coming from the BBC web servers as part of the iPlayer/listen again service. You have the artwork for the show, along with all the relevant meta-data, program info, credits, and text. All of these are on display in a clearly laid out screen. In essence it's an alternative front end to the content.

But Listen Again is an alternative front-end where there is no primary front end, and while there's no sign of (an official) one arriving, there's every chance that the alternative will be asked to "kindly stop what you're doing, old chap, there's a good man."

So enjoy Listen Again while it is available. It's glorious, it's the best solution you have at the moment for listening to any BBC radio show in the last seven days, and it'll probably be gone by the end of the summer holidays.

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