Almost two years after launching an NPR Music app for the iPhone and iPod touch, NPR has just released version 3.0 of the app, which finally includes support for the iPad. To help promote the new app, NPR will stream a live concert by The Shins on March 7th, but even if you're not a fan, there's plenty of reasons to give this free app a shot. The UI is centered around four main categories: articles (which often include audio segments as well), videos, programs, and genres. Articles and video are where the main content lives — you can narrow each section down by genre or, in the case of videos, broad types like "concerts" or "studio sessions." Programs gives a list of NPR's main music shows like All Songs Considered, First Listen, and World Cafe, and genres displays everything from one of seven different broad music categories.
Much like NPR's news app, articles (with or without audio) can be added to a playlist and saved for offline reading or listening; videos, however, must be viewed with an internet connection and can't be added to playlists. There is a master "favorites" section in which you can add any of the app's content, but that list doesn't sync for offline viewing later. Download times over Wi-Fi were pretty excellent, with a 100-minute Wilco concert being transfered over in a matter of minutes. While viewing your playlist, the app helpfully suggests other articles you might be interested in that you can easily drag and add to your current list. There's also the requisite fleet of social sharing options — once you've linked up to Twitter or Facebook, you can share links directly through the app, with Twitter taking advantage of the built-in iOS Twitter functionality. You can also email articles directly, if you're feeling more traditional.
Last, but not least, NPR Music offers about 100 streaming radio stations, broadly grouped under "rock," "jazz," and "classical," with the majority of stations designated as classical. You can add stations to your favorites as well, making that screen a hub for anything you might want to listen to. And NPR has helpfully built in Airplay streaming, so you can easily push audio and video to your Apple TV or any other Airplay-capable device you might have around. In a quick test, this worked just as well at pushing audio and video to our Apple TV does using the iPad's native apps. Overall this app is fast, responsive, and has years of content to dig through — the only complaint is occasional "sponsored by" ads that pop up, but we can't complain given that the app is free, works very well, and is loaded with quality material. If you even have a passing interest in music, this is absolutely worth a download — and if you've never checked out NPR Music before, this is a great place to start.