For the last three months or so I’ve been working on an iPhone (and iPad) app in my spare time. It all started when I took the kids to Minneapolis and had a hard time finding radio stations to listen to on the trip. I looked in the App Store for an app that would use my GPS to show me Christian radio stations nearby, but there wasn’t one. So I decided to build my own.
Using public information from the FCC and a few other sources, I built a database in Google docs that contains the frequency for all Christian radio stations, where the tower is located and how far the tower can reach. I also included any streaming audio information and other contact information like Facebook or Twitter that I could find.
Google spreadsheets publish in JSON format (yes, really) and Xcode can automatically deserialize JSON into a properly formatted entity. This is one area that Xcode is far superior to C#. In a just a few lines of code, I can have a list of in-memory strongly typed objects from a web-based JSON feed. To accomplish the same thing natively in .NET would be much more work and wouldn’t feel nearly as clean when it was said and done.
The snazzy icon shown above was built by my very talented wife. She hasn’t yet provided any feedback on the app’s user interface, which is why it is so plain and boring.
I used a navigation view controller and EGO pull to refresh table view to construct the main window. Pulling down to refresh initiates a GPS lookup, which queries the database for radio stations in range (yes, you can pass parameters to Google spreadsheets and get a subset back in JSON). Pulling up on the table extends the range of the search and includes stations that may not be close enough to get clear audio. This feature is not that intuitive and the next version contains an update to that functionality.
Tapping a cell will show a detail view that displays additional information about the station. The user can click to view the station on a map, click to listen to an online stream (if available) or click to see the station’s Facebook or Twitter pages.
Swiping back and forth on the table changes the information that is displayed on the right hand side of the table cell. It scrolls through the city where the tower is located, how far the phone is from the tower, the range of the tower and in the next version a signal strength indicator. This was pretty easy to implement once I figured out how to assign the gesture recognizer delegate.
Tapping and holding on a cell will jump the user to the map view screen. Which is pretty cool, but very hard for even a power user to discover. To tackle the issue of discoverability, the next version has a series of instructions displayed at the bottom of the screen to show the user the various shortcuts. Once the user has performed the swipes and long holds, the instructions disappear.
I’ve learned a lot developing this app. Spending over a decade exclusively in .NET made the learning curve a bit steep, but once I learned the structure and syntax of Objective-C, I’ve learned to appreciate the power and simplicity of it.
Here are a few screenshots. I would really appreciate any feedback and especially iTunes reviews. Technically it is open source and a smart googler could probably find it. I just haven’t promoted it as open source.