The Early Edition: Mobile app offers a riff on morning radio with a futuristic twist

Early Edition screencapThe Early Edition from is an app that combines the best of morning radio news with a sleek digital interface and a healthy dose of personalization. It’s a surprisingly charming experience that shows one example of how startups are finding creative ways to recreate a traditional radio experience on mobile platforms.

Any great radio show needs a DJ to keep you glued to the airwaves. In this case, the hosts are Miranda and Carl, two artificial intelligence assistants (similar to Apple’s Siri) that read off the headlines, weather reports, and random trivia. The duo is full of personality and seem ever-ready to butter up the listener. For instance, Miranda told me that she thought of me while scanning the web for adorable puppies. D’aww. The voices definitely haven’t achieved fully human sounds, but once you adjust to their robotic cadences, there’s a certain charm in how they talk. In the news reports, though, it can occasionally be hard to understand what they are saying.

You can set the exact mix of topics that you want to hear in your stream. A large white button in the customization screen toggles different sources on and off. The news comes from the BBC, Associated Press, Al Jazeera, Reuters, and a handful of web sources. On the music side, the app can sync with select iTunes playlists and a Soundcloud or Wimp account to play your tunes alongside the news. You can skip a song or segment or pause the stream, but otherwise, the listening experience is hands-off after you’ve made your decisions about what you want from the program.

To get the true morning news experience, The Early Edition can even function as an alarm. Set the time you want to wake up, put the app in night mode, and it will start your morning with some dulcet tones and a weather report.

The app’s lovely design makes it satisfying to use. Navigation is intuitive, and the slowly scrolling rainbow background is a colorful way to start the morning.

The Early Edition is a great example of how smart designers will be adapting the classic radio experiences to digital platforms. It’s a similar approach to that taken by the recently-launched NPR One app. Rather than producing original content or licensing other broadcasts, though, The Early Edition serves as an aggregator. The stellar mobile experience and futuristic AI element set this offering apart from the rest. Plus, by paying a pittance for the app, you avoid hearing any ads, rounding out the program’s excellent listening environment.

The Early Edition is currently available on iOS for $1.99, with an Android version in the works.

Anna Washenko