Quick Summary

Positive Life Radio came to us for a cross-platform (iPhone and Android) mobile app for their radio station. We designed and built an app for listening to their online stream, seeing local events, and even waking you up with a built-in alarm clock.

The Backstory

As TYPO3 users, Positive Life Radio has been working with us since the beginning of Craft+Story to help them maintain their website and develop a few custom plugins like their daily devotionals from Max Lucado.

They’ve run an online broadcast of their radio station for years, but it wasn’t a great solution for mobile devices. When they decided they wanted to take the next step to give people a dedicated app and promote listener engagement, they came to us to make it happen.

The Problem

Positive Life Radio had online streaming through their mobile website, but it had a lot of restrictions. The stream wasn’t always stable on iOS, and it couldn’t play in the background or really at all if you weren’t actively using it in the mobile browser. We ended up expanding the goals of the project by the end, but it started with the basic need to have a dedicated app for streaming the radio station and using location services to give listeners local news and event information.

Our Solution

Native, Cross-Platform App

It was very important to PLR that they have an app for iPhone and Android. We had the budget for one, cross-platform app, so we looked at all the different “wrappers” and cross-compilers. After some talk, we also decided that we wanted everything to compile (and look) native for each device. I, personally, can’t stand an Android design on my iPhone and I’m sure it works both ways. We decided to use — and learn — the Appcelerator Titanium platform based on Javascript (which we did know). We basically designed and built the app as both an Android app (on Android phones) and an iOS app (on iPhones), and we used a customized version of their current site to load dynamic information like news articles and the app’s home page.

GPS and TYPO3 Integration

Obviously, the streaming radio was the marquee feature for the app, but we also wanted to use GPS together with TYPO3 to pull local information and even show the local PLR radio frequency and call letters throughout the state of Washington. On the app side, we just built some simple functionality to send the local zip code to their website and handle the results of radio station information and custom RSS feeds for each region. On the TYPO3 side, we built a new plugin for them to assign zip codes to radio stations and event feeds in the backend. We wanted as turn-key a solution as possible, and they already knew their way around the TYPO3 backend.

App Screenshots

Alarm Clock

After we finished (but didn’t launch) the first version, the request came down for an integrated alarm clock. Some of you may know that iOS and Android both have their own oddities and restrictions around timed events (especially when the app is closed). With some wrangling and custom extensions, we got everything working so that the radio stream would wake you up if you left the app open and give an interactive notification with an alarm sound if you closed it. After personally testing it for a week, I added snooze functionality that they didn’t ask for (but I wanted).

The Outcome

We just launched, but it’s already been a hit with the staff and their listeners. We’ve already pushed out one revision, and I know there are more ideas about what we could do next.

The Wrap-up

We created the first official native app for Positive Life Radio and our first cross-platform app all at once. There were a few tears and some hard times trying to get everything running and tested on two platforms at once, but we got it launched and I got to test it by waking up to a radio alarm clock everyday for a couple weeks.

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