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January 12, 2023

Autio App Review: Audio Learning While Road Tripping

Recently I drove from California to Texas and back for the holidays and I downloaded and tested out an app for my iPhone that I’d heard of called Autio (it used to be called HearHere). The app features over 10,000 location-based audio stories across the United States. The short audio stories are narrated by many professional narrators. Actor Kevin Costner is a co-founder of Autio and also narrates some stories. I love taking road trips and I love learning about where I’m driving through, so I decided to purchase the very reasonable Autio annual membership at $35.99 and test it out. Note that the app is currently only available on iOS for iPhones and is not yet available on Android phones.

You can check out the Autio website here:

Autio.com Website

And you can download the Autio iPhone app here:

Autio: Location-Based Story Guide App

The app is very easy to use and intuitive, showing you all the audio stories on a map as markers that you can easily click on to listen to. The map shows your location, so you can pick out audio stories which are coming up on your journey. You can also scroll through all the names of the stories on the map to pick out the ones you’re wanting to listen to. The audio stories are short (usually under 5 minutes). The content of the audio is basically like a museum tour for the open road. It’s straightforward and factual with narrated recordings of well-written short-form content that usually pertains to the history of the area. One thing I thought that might’ve improved the audio stories was maybe having some recordings that were more like conversational podcasts. Like if they interviewed local historians about a particular place it might make for a more compelling listen. Also for major landmarks on the road, it might be nice to have some longer form audio content than just a 5-minute story. But that might not be scalable if you’re doing over 10,000 audio recordings! There were always plenty of audio story landmarks on the map to choose from which was nice.

One of the other challenges if you are out on the open road is having internet service to be able to stream the audio stories. A few times a story would get stuck buffering when I was out of service range. You can download stories if you’d like in advance if you have the forethought to do so. When you’re in a city the audio streaming is no problem, but when you’re in the middle of the New Mexico desert it can sometimes be challenging with the app.

Even if you’re not out on the open road, the Autio app can be fun to click around on. Go through the United States map and find places you’ve been or learn some new things about places you’ve never been. It’s a fun app that I’m glad I downloaded for road trips. When I wasn’t listening to audio books or podcasts or music, I’d switch over to the Autio app for a while to learn about my surroundings. I do hope the Autio app succeeds. 15 years ago I wrote a blog post called Guide to Audio Tours which covered dozens of walking tours, driving tours, museum tours, and more. But most of the resources and websites I linked to have disappeared. Hopefully, Autio will continue to be alive for years to come!