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BBC Sounds app update: CarPlay, Android Auto & live track info

Dan Taylor-Watt

Director, Product & Systems, BBC Design & Engineering

Since we launched BBC Sounds in October last year, it’s gone through some major changes, some of which have always been in our plans, and some of which have been inspired by the feedback we’ve been getting from listeners.

Today, we’re adding two major new features to the app. The first is that the BBC Sounds app will now display information about the track that’s currently playing for our live radio stations – something we know listeners are going to be pleased about. We know people love discovering new music through BBC radio, but if you miss the presenter’s introduction it can be frustrating to have to wait until the programme’s over before you can find out what a track was. This should make it much quicker and easier to find out what you’re listening to.

Now Playing

We’re also introducing support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, enabling drivers to safely enjoy BBC Sounds whilst behind the wheel. This support was available for iPlayer Radio, but for Sounds we’ve built and improved upon the experience, offering drivers a larger choice of content from the dashboard.

Listeners will have four main sections to explore: My Sounds, which brings your Bookmarks, Subscriptions and your Latest list into one handy place, just as it does on the app; Browse, which provides a route to explore music mixes and recommendations; Stations which lets you listen to our live radio stations; and Downloads, where, as you’d expect, you’ll find everything you’ve downloaded on the app.

Apple Car Play

To use the new in-car experience, Android owners can either connect to a compatible car display or download and run the Android Auto app on any Android phone running Android 5.0 or above, while iPhone owners will need an Apple CarPlay-equipped vehicle.

These updates are the latest in a number of changes we’ve made to the app since it first launched. We recently introduced live rewind and live restart on the BBC Sounds app, which means listeners can now restart any live programme and listen to it from the beginning, or rewind to any point in the live programme and pick it up from there. They can also pause a live stream and later resume from where they left off or jump back to live. It’s been a really popular feature on the web, but is a new feature for the BBC Sounds app, one that wasn’t available on the BBC iPlayer Radio app.

We’ve also added the popular sleep timer feature from iPlayer Radio, so that people can make sure the programme or station they’re playing stops after their chosen amount of time. We’ve added a share button, so that people can easily share their favourite programmes on their social media.

Other updates we’ve made include autoplay, which automatically cues up other episodes in a series or a recommendation after the thing you’re listening to has finished, we’ve started displaying the shows you’ve been listening to and how far through you are on the home screen, and Siri Shortcuts, which lets you set and use a personal phrase to launch BBC Sounds and quickly play your favourite BBC stations.

And we’re not done yet. There’s lots more functionality coming very soon to the BBC Sounds app, including Chromecast support, which we know some of our listeners are really keen on, showing more programme information for live and future programmes and a major revamp of categories, which will introduce sub-categories (e.g. crime drama), a new podcast category and different sort options. We’ll also soon be enabling listeners to open tracks they discover in our music mixes and on-demand programmes in Spotify or Apple Music.

Music mixes

As mentioned at the top of this post, feedback’s been an important part of making the BBC Sounds app what it is today, and it’ll continue to be vital in how we develop the app going forward. Please keep it coming, it’s invaluable.