By Dexter Blumenthal of Evolver.fm.
It’s always nice when new technology erases boundaries between formerly discrete functionalities. Suddenly, you only need one thing where you used to need two or more. Agogo (free, iOS), released on Wednesday, does that for audio — not music, audio.
This app combines AM/FM radio stations, TV audio programming, and podcasts, organizing all of that into channels organized by subject matter. It’s an impressive list of functions, and it doesn’t stop there. Agogo also lets users listen to music while in the app — everything in your iPhone’s local music collection, or stuff from your Spotify or Rdio account.
Oh, and it also reads you traffic updates based on your location, just the way your local FM stations do, but it doesn’t end there — you also get articles from news sites read aloud to you by a pleasant female voice with a posh English accent. As if that weren’t enough, you also get free samples of audiobooks.
To recap, that’s scads of AM/FM radio broadcasts, TV audio, podcasts, your music from three other collection apps, traffic updates, news articles, and books in a single app. One more thing: It’ll also read you your horoscope. This is the closest app we’ve seen yet to my editor’s vision of “One App To Rule Them All.”
Luckily, Agogo, created by J.D. Heilprin (formerly of ancient RioPort fame), is superbly organized. On the front page sit 28 curated channels, including tongue-in-cheek titles such as “Celebrity, Crime & Punishment” and “Deep Thoughts.” These range in subject matter from the culinary arts to science to an obituary section, “Recently Deceased.”
Agogo color-codes each episode by source; culture-focused sources are purple, news sources are blue, and music is red. You can also skip straight to keywords or individual sources. Most of Agogo’s content comes from trustworthy sources like BBC, CNET, CNN, NPR, and yes, even the Colbert Report.
When it comes to playing music, Agogo works great for local files. You can browse your phone’s music library with ease, access your playlists, and shuffle. Things get a little squirrelly with the music subscription services though, so far, anyway (the app has only been out for a single day at this point). We tested the app with Rdio, and the app threw together a selection of music from our collection that seemed haphazard. In a sense, it was nice, because we heard songs we hadn’t heard in a while, but it’s unclear how the music’s chosen. You can, however, access Rdio Heavy Rotation, and extend from any artist out to the rest of their albums, offering a degree of control.
One thing Agogo doesn’t do is customize any of this based on your listening habits. Instead, it relies on you to curate your own experience by dropping episodes from any channel into the Favorites channel, which saves one particular episode, or the Go channel, which continually refreshes the episode whenever a new one shows up — just how your favorite podcast app works (and again, you can use this for those too).
If you hear something great but forget to save it, a History channel tracks everything you listen to, so you can return to it later. And, of course, the now-omnipresent Share appears for each episode of anything.
We don’t have many complaints about the smooth-running, versatile Agogo, and frankly, it’s a little surprising that there aren’t already more apps like this (there are a few though, and we’re going to round those up soon).
Our only criticisms are the lack of search and personalized internet radio stations; the odd subscription music integration; and the disappointment that while the traffic updates correspond exactly to your commute, the weather updates are national, rather than local — and the first time we’ve had to think about the quality of the weather forecasts in a music app, which is itself something of a victory.