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When Apple unveiled iOS 13 last month, one of the many features that the company briefly mentioned was the ability to bring up a huge number of live radio stations via Siri. During the announcement, Apple said that it would be sourcing stations from TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Radio.com, providing a total collection of over 100,000 radio stations that users will be able to call up and listen to on-demand just by asking Siri.
While the feature was ostensibly part of iOS 13, since it requires back-end changes on Apple’s part it wasn’t clear whether it would arrive before the fall.
However, according to German site Macerkopf, a whole collection of German stations are available on iPhones and iPads running the iOS 13 beta, and even via the HomePod, despite there being no iOS 13 betas available for it.
In fact, in our testing the feature appears to be working fine even on iPhones and iPads running iOS 12, which makes sense since that’s also the latest version of the operating system currently available for the HomePod, meaning that this isn’t strictly an iOS 13 feature, although Apple is still promoting it on its HomePod page as “Coming this fall.”
Of course, it’s entirely possible that the rollout is still proceeding, and the actual target number of 100,000 radio stations won’t be reached until later this year, but we succeeded in calling up at least two dozen different radio stations from around the world with no problems, however your mileage may vary.
It’s also worth noting that Siri is still a little fussy about how requests are phrased, with keywords like “radio station” needed to call up the
It appears that those stations called up as part of the new collection get identified with a “provided by” tag in the Siri reply, such as “Playing BBC Radio One, provided by TuneIn.”
In the very least, even if the full catalog from TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Radio.com is now available, Apple is almost certainly still tweaking things, so it should be considered “beta” at best for now.
That said, however, the actual audio quality of the stations sounds quite good, especially on the HomePod, adding another feather in the cap for Apple’s smart speaker for those who like to listen to traditional radio stations. While the radio support is obviously just a back-end change on Apple’s part, the smart speaker is expected to get a much wider range of improvements when the actual iOS 13 arrives this fall, including voice recognition for handling personal requests from multiple family members and ensuring that it’s accessing the correct music libraries and listening profiles and histories for each, as well as easier music handoff.
Unlike Apple’s other operating system updates, however, even registered developers don’t have access to HomePod beta updates, much less public beta program participants, so it looks like we’re all going to have to wait together until the fall to actually experience what iOS 13 will bring to Apple’s smart speaker.