Swell Review: Easy Listening

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I got this recommendation from our awesome new professor at Lehigh, Matt Veto. We were at lunch the other day and I mentioned my blog. He asked me if I had heard of an app called Swell. I said no and he explained it.

Once upon a time he was wondering if there was a Pandora version of news radio. So he looked up “Pandora for news,” and as fate would have it, Swell had just launched the day he searched it.

This was a funny and interesting story, but not particularly enticing to me because I don’t really like Pandora, nor am I an avid listener of news radio. But I decided to check it out.

And thus I discovered that, yes, Swell is essentially the Pandora version of news and Matt thought of the idea a tad too late. It also seems like Pandora is a comparison drawn too often to Swell, I wonder how they feel about that. It’s better than Pandora in one way, there doesn’t seem to be a limit to the amount of programs you can skip!

The apps says it’s “the quickest and easiest way to listen to news and information.” Not arguing with that. Swell is chock full of great features, it leaves little to be desired.

There’s a wide range of categories to choose from, you can like programs so the app learns your taste, you can bookmark programs to listen to again or later, you can share a program via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail or text, there’s a search function and there’s even top charts with programs that are trending with users and programs that are “for you.”

The app also learns your interests and shows you a visual representation of how much of each topic it’ll include in your personal mix.

It offers quite a lot to explore, so I recommend downloading it and checking it out instead of reading me detailing every little feature it has, because there are a lot.

I honestly can’t think of any additions that could be made to this app. Seems like they’ve really thought of everything and fleshed it out to it’s fullest potential.

Maybe I’m viewing this from a less critical point of view since I’m not extremely familiar with news radio and what listeners want out of it, but all in all this app seems like one of the few that are out there that provides a vast array of programming. It’s also great for those who want to change up what they listen to and discover new things.

Mobile site: I actually really like their website. Some sites for apps are too minimalist and just push for you to download the app to find out. But Swell gives a nice summary of the app through a quick informational video.

I also like their FAQ. Forget my review, just go read that page because it tells you everything you need to know.

The site gives you a good amount of info and even tell you a bit more about how the apps works for those who are curious.

Free: Yes, it’s free. But like I wrote about with Circa, I could see them expanding their selections, maybe even producing some of their own content, and charging money to access that.

Availability: At the moment, it’s only available in the App Store. But according to their Twitter page, it’s in beta for Android, so hopefully that’ll be coming soon. There’s a sign up list to be notified when it is released.

Original content: No, but they have a huge selection of tons of different radio programs from NPR to ABC to CBS to individual shows.

Push notifications: It asked me if it could send me notifications when I first downloaded the app, and I said yes, but I haven’t gotten any yet. There’s an option under settings that says “News Update” that asks which news provider you’d like Swell to use when it sends you an update (ABC, CBS, FOX or NPR), or you can just select “Let Swell decide.”

I’m assuming this is the equivalent of a breaking news notification. That if something big happens, it’ll notify you and link you to a new brief to can listen to. But I haven’t experienced it yet so I’m not completely sure.

Simplicity: Lots to explore but all accessible from one main menu. Definitely easy to navigate. Also since it’s similar to Pandora or other listening apps, it feels even more intuitive.

Recommend to: Those who have the time. Matt has an hour long commute to Lehigh, so that’s when he’s most able to make use of it. It definitely seems like the perfect app to use for that. It also offers Bluetooth connectivity for people who don’t have a car from the 90s like I do. Aside: I use this in my car, which is kinda the coolest invention ever and makes use of my car’s great stereo.

Anyway, as a college student who drives in a car only a few times a month, I can’t think of an ideal time to listen. I’m not the type who wakes up early and gets ready for class over an hour’s time. But for those who commute or already have a way to dedicate time to listening to radio, Swell is a wonderful thing.

Score out of 10: Hard to give this a rating. I guess I’d say 7/10 just because of lack of personal interest. Not sure if that’s a valid reason for docking it points, but it’s my blog so I believe the “because I said so” rule works here. Others might give it a 10/10.

Verdict: I’m not in the habit of listening to the radio, I don’t really have the time in my day. So I’m not keeping it for personal reasons, but if you like to listen to radio or want to get into it, this is definitely the perfect app to do so.

I’d love to hear some input on this one from people who listen to radio or use this app.

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