iOS 13 beta and HomePod lets you ask Siri to play radio

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iPhone FM radio chips
"Hey Siri, play BBC Radio One."
Photo: Alan Levine/Flickr CC

The ability to use Siri to listen to live radio stations is up and running for HomePod users, along with people running the latest iOS 13 beta.

Apple announced the feature at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, boasting support for iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Radio.com streaming radio. That means users can access more than 100,000 different stations using Apple’s AI assistant.

Waze adds podcast controls to brighten up your commute

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The Waze Audio Player puts podcast controls right next to your driving directions.
The Waze Audio Player puts podcast controls right next to your driving directions.
Photo: Waze

Long trips and podcasts go well together, and Google’s Waze navigation software just added support for controlling some popular streaming audio services from right within the app.

The goal of the new Waze Audio Player feature is making it less dangerous to adjust what you’re listening to while driving.

Apple eyes stake in struggling U.S. radio group iHeartMedia

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iHeartMedia
A deal could bring Beats 1 to broadcast radio.
Photo: iHeartMedia

Apple is in talks over acquiring a stake in iHeartMedia, according to a new report.

Sources say the company could invest millions of dollars to help save the struggling U.S. radio group, which filed for bankruptcy back in March. However, negotiations are at an early stage for now and no deal has been agreed yet.

How to make Amazon Echo default to Spotify or Pandora

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The Amazon Echo may finally have competition from Apple.
It's easier than ever to get the Amazon Echo to play tracks from Spotify Premium.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Barking out a song request at my Amazon Echo smart speaker, then hearing the track magically start playing, makes me feel like I’m living in the future.

Unfortunately, that feeling evaporates when the song isn’t part of the relatively skimpy Amazon Prime Music catalog. If it’s not there, Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa queues up an annoying 30-second sample — and that makes me realize I’m living in the very buggy present.

Luckily, you can fix that. Here’s how to make Amazon Echo default to Spotify so you don’t get stuck with those annoying song and album previews.

iHeartRadio hearts Apple TV with new streaming app

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Do you really heart radio?
Do you really heart radio?
Photo: iHeartMedia

If you want to listen to the same corporate pop music as you do on your terrestrial radio, you can do so from the comfort of your couch.

iHeartRadio’s streaming app can now also reside on your Apple TV, assuming you have one of the newer fourth-generation set-top boxes from Apple.

The new Apple TV app will give you all the main elements of the iOS app, including Live Stations, Custom Stations based on songs or artists, and podcasts from the behemoth media network.

As streaming surges, record stores turn the indie knob up to 11

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Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Video might have killed the radio star, but streaming hasn't killed the record store. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Stroll into your local record store and you won’t find the dusty-floored wasteland of empty bins you might imagine. Chances are you’ll see something that’s more vibrant, relevant and vital than before.

Like the nerdy know-it-alls at specialty wine stores and comic book shops, today’s typical employee at an indie record store is still a tastemaking wizard — just turned up to 11. Staff picks bear the unerring zeal of the true believer, and staffers are more focused on uncovering stuff that you’ll never find on a Walmart CD shelf.

“Since there’s been a turn to Spotify, Bandcamp and iTunes, we sell way more vinyl,” said Jim Haynes, assistant manager at San Francisco’s Aquarius Records. “We’re at about 75 percent vinyl to 20 percent CD and a smattering of cassettes. People are turning to an even more seemingly obsolete medium.”

Predictions of the end of physical media are as played-out as those reports about the death of rock ‘n’ roll, with everyone and their mother proclaiming that Spotify and other streaming services have killed the local record store. That fear-mongering sounds smart and might even contain a kernel of truth, but the reality is much different.