Here’s a confession: I haven’t purchased a song from iTunes or Amazon or Google in a couple of years.
No, I haven’t turned to piracy via Bittorrent, and neither have I started to use (shudder) YouTube to listen to new songs.
I’ve done what millions of other folks are doing these days, namely using streaming radio.
It started with Pandora, but my experience there quickly paled as I realized I could never really get the specific artists I wanted on the stations I created. Plus, I’m an old-school music snob. I believe in the album format, as a collection of songs that makes some sort of collective statement, even when it isn’t a thematic album, per se.
Enter Rdio, Spotify, and Rhapsody. Each streaming music service has its proponents and detractors, and I’m no different. I’m an Rdio fan from the start, but keep trying out Spotify as more and more of the connections on my social networks seem to use it to share playlists. I figured I’d give Rhapsody a shot, too, since it basically does the same thing as the other two.
And there’s the rub. Each service does the same thing: offers up unlimited on-demand music from modern recorded music over the internet, via a website, computer app, or iOS app. How then, are we to choose which service is best for us? Here’s how I did it.
First of all, I’m sticking to the iOS experience. That means that each service costs about $10 a month to use. I use my iPhone in the car or on my bicycle to play music via LTE on the go. I also use my iPad 3 or iPad mini to send music to bluetooth speakers in my house. These are my default listening environments.
Therefore, I’m judging each service on how well it works as an iOS app, as a music catalogue, and as a sharing platform, because I love sharing and discovering new music via my friends and social network.
Heard it on the Rdio
Rdio has a fantastic collection of music, both old and new, and the universal app makes it super easy to see what new albums are out, what albums are trending within my network, and to search for music I want to hear. I have yet to not be able to find something I’m looking for via search, and I dig pulling up new albums by artists I know as well as by those I don’t. Rdio is visually organized around albums, which makes sense to my old music-loving brain.
While many of my music-snob friends use the service, what Rdio doesn’t have is a significant amount of the rank and file people on the service to meet my sharing/discovery needs. The playlist support is also rather hidden in the iOS app, at least, making finding new playlists a more difficult task than it should be.
Here’s the current darling of the social network scene, with a broad user base and a fantastic catalog of all sorts of music. The playlist support is second to none, and finding playlists to follow is super easy and surfaced at the top of the interface, at least in the iPad version of the app. The What’s New tab has recommended albums, trending playlists, and New Releases all visible and easily accessed. This, plus the fact that many of my friends on Facebook and Twitter seem to share Spotify links more often than Rdio is what keeps me interested in the service.
However, what Spotify also has is a horrible iPhone app. I started using it on iOS via the smaller app, and almost gave up hope. It wasn’t until I opened Spotify on my iPad that I saw any use in using the service on the go. Why a universal app can’t work the same on both the iPhone and the iPad, I don’t know.
Now here’s a service that has always seemed more corporate to me, with a big, pretty iOS interface and plenty of new artists and albums to listen to and discover. The main page is set up with New Releases, Popular Artists, and Featured albums. The genre support here is great; I can find classical, jazz, and world music as easily as I can rock or pop.
On the downside, playlists are a decidedly single affair, as I can make them, but I don’t see anywhere to find them. There’s also no connection to Facebook or Twitter, making sharing my music listening or discovering that of my friends rather difficult. The show stopper here, though, came when I tried to open up the app on my iPhone, originally having set it up on my iPad mini. I got a message saying, essentially, that I had reached my “Device Limit,” and that only one device at a time is supported. I could switch devices if I liked, but only one at a time is authorized for the Rhapsody service. Game over, which is too bad because it’s a very pretty app.
I’m still going to stick with Rdio, because it looks and works the same on my iPhone as it does my iPad. The people I’m connected to on the service are all folks with eclectic, intelligent taste in music, and I really get a lot more out of following them and their playlists on Rdio. I wish it had better ways to discover playlists, and makes browsing by genre a bigger part of the interface, but the service is still my personal favorite.
Spotify is a close second, mainly due to the trending playlist and larger-seeming user base, at least within my social scene. I wish it was less song oriented and more about the albums, but that’s more my own bias than anything significant with the service. If sharing songs with other folks is important, Spotify is a great choice.
Rapsody, sadly, while pretty, has the limitation on devices, as well as a more corporate look and feel, plus the lack of modern social network support. If none of those things matter, it’s a decent service for the same price as the other two.
Bottom line, whichever service meets the needs of its individual users is the “winner,” but I find Rdio to be the best of all worlds, and will probably stick with it for the time being, especially while the Spotify iPhone app is so awful.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on February 27th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Spotify, the radio app that gives users access to millions of songs, has received an update adding a new interface for users to swipe through. Also, it features a now playing bar that will show users what they’re listening to and also allows the option to tap the bar for more information on the current song.
Complete list of updates from the App Store.
• New: Shiny new interface. You can navigate around the app with a new sidebar. Check it out by swiping left-to-right, or by pressing the ≣ button in the top left of the app.
• New: Now Playing bar. You’ll always see what you’re listening to along the bottom of Spotify. To switch tracks, just swipe along it. Tap or drag to see more information about the current track. Tap the cover art in the extended view to use AirPlay, and disable/enable shuffle and repeat.
• New: Track menu. Tap the … button on any track to see a redesigned context menu.
• Fixed: “Track only available online” issues. This would sometimes appear after start-up, or when you’d been offline for a little while. Not any more.
• Fixed: Lock screen will now always display the correct track.
• Fixed: Shuffle now switches off after you’ve used “Shuffle Play” on an album or playlist.
If you’re a Spotify user, you know it’s a great app and service that streams music to your iPhone, iPad, or computer. You also know that discovering new music is not as easy as it should be, and that’s where Sonarflow Spot comes in.
The developers claim that Spotify Premium users can use Sonarflow Spot to explore music based on their starred and top tracks as well as with Spotify’s own top lists. Think of it as a different way to explore music via Spotify, with a unique bubble-based visual organization. The devs hope to show you music that you’d never find using just Spotify.
* One-touch access to Spotify’s world of music
* Discover new bands and artists in Spotify
* Listen to music from Spotify directly in the app
* Watch band videos through YouTube
* Read artist biographies
* Star your favorite tracks
* Share music discoveries with your friends on Facebook and Twitter
Check Sonarflow Spot out today for the low price of FREE, and let us know what you think.
Regular users of the Spotify app have just been given yet another reason why the service is the best music product out there. Radio functionality has just been added in the latest update.
It’s a feature that’s been available for PC/Mac users for quite a while and allows users to create stations based on their favorite artists, albums or playlists, with only a single tap saving the track for future reference.
For those who want faster access, the Radio tab makes it possible to view and listen to other stations. Give a favored song a thumb up and it all goes towards Spotify’s personalization system which recommends ideal stations for the user. It should ensure that there’s never a time where you’ll be stumped for what to listen to next.
The service is currently available for free in the US while other countries will require a premium subscription to access the functionality.
Spotify, one of the most popular on-demand social music services, updated their iOS app last week. There were a lot of fixes and a few tweaks, but the biggest news is that the app now uses push notifications.
Spotify is a great way to listen to almost any artist, song, or album you can think of, but one of the primary functions of the main desktop app is the social connectivity. You can follow friends from Facebook, subscribe to their playlists, and even send them music. Now the app is focusing its attention on this aspect by notifying users when a new friend joins, when a playlist you subscribe to has been altered or when someone signs up to listen to your mix.
Also added, a new user guide helps newcomers explore some of Spotify’s features as they translate to iOS, Retina display interface and album art, and better offline synching,
All these changes are welcome, but what’s still missing is Spotify’s genre and user-created radio stations, and their integrated third-party music discovery apps, things we hope to see in future updates.
Today is a good day for fans of music like the indigenous folk rock music of southern Papua, New Guinea as NPR has launched an updated version of their music app for the iPad. The newly launched NPR Music is a one-stop listening shop for iPad users, providing free access to basically everything NPR has to offer. Users have access to extensive music collections from a variety of genres, all organized by category for easy perusal. Furthermore, you can check out news, signature NPR programming, listen to live events or even stream entire stations all with a couple taps and swipes.
In a move that will really please audiophiles, NPR Music allows you to save playlists for later offline listening, a free service which normally locked away as a “premium” features in apps like Spotify. We do however assume that at some point the app will bombard you with endless pledge drives until you find some way to insert $20 into your iPad. But isn’t that a small price to pay the first time you whip out your iPad, load up your NPR app and completely blow the minds of your hipster friends?
Are you a true audiophile who wants your music at the highest definition possible? Do you also happen to be a Spotify user who loves listening on the go but feel like the quality could be better? If so then you’ll be happy to know that the latest update to the Spotify app cranks it to 11, introducing a new “extreme” level of audio quality.
The new update allows users to stream songs at 320kbps. which doubles the high quality option (160kbps) and utterly destroys standard quality (96kbps). The only downside is that if you’re planning to use the maximum available quality then you’d best either be connected to a Wifi network at all times or packing an unlimited data plan that isn’t likely to get throttled. Still, power users with access to copious amounts of data will likely be thrilled at the prospect of never being without Spotify‘s 15 million tracks, now available in a higher quality than what even iTunes has to offer.
Rebel and Bird AB and Springworks AB have announced an upcoming application that will try to help Spotify users — or at least those with Spotify Premium — discover new music while on the go. Their app, SpotON Radio, will allow users to log in to their Spotify accounts and have custom radio stations built for them based on their Spotify data. According to Rebel and Bird’s Peter Blom, “We’re all passionate music fans and love discovering new music which can often be a challenge. Even though you now have access to an endless library thanks to Spotify, it’s hard to seek out new songs and you often end up listening to the same playlists over and over again. We wanted to change that and that’s where the idea for SpotON Radio started.”
It will work similarly to Pandora, where users enter in a starting point like their favorite artist, and then the app will find similar tracks based on that. This is all based on Spotify’s API, using their library of music (accessible through the user’s premium subscription which offers the access to the tracks) to supply the tracks for the service. SpotON Radio launches on January 9th as a free app with no ads at all, though the developers tease that it may not stay that way always. The app will be available from this link, so Spotify Premium users will want to keep an eye out for this.
It’s not everyday that we write about hardware on 148Apps. So when we do, you know it’s about something awesome.
Today, Sonos, one our favorite iOS friendly audio hardware makers have released a new, smaller device, the Play3. It’s the little brother to the fantastic S5, now called the Play5 that we reviewed last year. This smaller version has 3 speakers instead of the 5 found in the Play5. It still maintains the features of the Play5 in that it connects with your home network to stream music from iTunes and a huge variety of online services like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, etc.
I had a chance to test out the new Play3 for a few minutes earlier this week. And I’m impressed. It does a great job, in a smaller package, of still sounding great. You can use this in addition to a Play5, on it’s own, or create a stereo pair between two like devices. The Play5 is a great machine that I’ve grown to love. The Play3 will be a great first device for new Sonos users considering it’s retail price of $299. It will also make a good second device to extend your Sonos range into another room.
We hope to be able to bring you a full review of the Play3 in the next couple weeks.
Spotify has landed in the US with a great deal of press coverage and speculation, but what is it, exactly?
Spotify is a streaming music service – more akin to Rdio or MOG than the randomly-generated playlists of Pandora – that has one killer feature its competitors don’t. It’s free. Yep, once an account is established (which is tricky at the moment – more on that in a bit), streaming is enabled for Macs and PCs through the iTunes-like Spotify desktop client. The catches are relatively minor. The free service is ad-supported, so expect to hear song snippets when you least expect them, or see an ad for Coke dominate your Spotify screen for a few seconds. Taken as a whole, however, it’s a lot of content for the surprising cost of nothing.
For those wanting more, Spotify offers an Unlimited Plan for $4.95 which features unlimited streaming to PC/Mac with no ads or a Premiere Plan for $9.95 a month to stream all content to the iPhone and select other devices. If you’re hurting for an invite to join the fun, you can jump to the head of the line by purchasing an Unlimited or Premiere plan…or…
You can win one of two invites to Spotify USA by helping us reach 2,000 fans on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/148apps. Once we hit that magic number, all of our recent fans’ names go into a hat for a random drawing. Two lucky winners will receive invites to the music party of the year.
Wireless music syncing? Wireless playlist syncing? It seems the 21st century is finally starting to live up to its expectations, thanks to an update from Spotify. A new version of the application will provide users with the ability to sync MP3s and playlists wirelessly, in addition to the “offline playlists” mode that finds local tracks in the Spotify and iPod app. That includes Spotify Free users.
A new download service has been unveiled too, making it a simple process to buy every song in a playlist. “Spotify’s new MP3 download service makes it possible to own your playlists in one easy step … we’ve been able to offer you some of the most competitive prices available – from as little as 50p per song.” The download prices are tiered, depending on how many tracks you buy: 10 will cost £7.99 (80p per song); 15 will cost £9.99 (67p p/s); 40 will cost £25 (63p p/s); and 100 will cost £50 (50p p/s).
“From today, Spotify really is the only music player you’ll ever need” writes Daniel Ek, CEO & Founder of Spotify. “Our users don’t want to have to switch between their music players, but they do want to take their playlists with them wherever they go … now we’ve made that possible.” The new features will be packed into a new version “rolling out to users … over the coming days.”
iPod Classic, Nano and Shuffle users haven’t been left behind, with new functionality to manage music from the Spotify desktop application. Simply connect an iPod via USB and watch it appear under ‘Devices’ in Spotify. iPhone and iPod Touch owners – check your updates now, there’s at least one waiting for you.
While Pandora got the top billing when Apple demoed iOS 4 multitasking, other music services are also updating their apps to support background play.
Multitasking in iOS 4 allows compatible apps to run in the background while another app runs in the foreground. Apps in the background can continue to perform tasks such as play music streams.
Slacker Inc has announced that its personal radio application, Slacker Radio, has been updated to support multitasking and is available now for free on the App Store. The currently Europe-only Spotify is also headed for background-centric adjustment with the company announcing on its blog that an update has been submitted to Apple. The blog post goes on to suggest that a “surprise” will also be included in the update to thank users for their patience.
As well as music streaming, GPS navigation apps and social networking clients are also popular background enabled apps. Expect to see many more updates of this type in the coming days.
After Apple acquired music streaming service Lala Media at the end of 2009, many believed it would be bringing this cloud-based technology to its iTunes service very soon. While Lala will shut down on May 31st it appears that it may still be a while before a streaming version of the iTunes Store for both desktop computers as well as iPhones and iPads will be launched.
Lala offers a catalog of over 7 million songs that stream directly to users over the internet. In order for listeners to listen to a specific song at any time and as many times as they wish they are required to pay a $.10 fee. Songs are also available to download at prices similar to the iTunes Music Store. Apple acquired the company in December 2009 for an undisclosed fee thought to be around $17 million.
However, after initial excitement at the Lala Media shutdown announcement, it appears not to denote an imminent launch of Apple’s own streaming product.
Apple is said to be talking to record labels regarding a streaming service but these discussions have been pegged as “preliminary at best” according Peter Kafka writing for MediaMemo at All Things D.
The success of streaming music and video applications like Spotify and Pandora for the iPhone and the new ABC Player for iPad have added weight to the rumours that Apple will begin to deliver music and movies in the same way via iTunes but it appears this move could still be a way off.
Apple is well aware of the demand for streaming music services after showing Pandora’s application streaming music while making use of the new multitasking feature found in the upcoming iPhone OS 4.0.
One of the key factors in such a service is the method in which payment would be made by consumers. While Apple has strong ties with the major record labels it took a long time to thrash out a mutually beneficial deal. Changing the landscape for music delivery may introduce further issues. Streaming music a user already owns on iTunes is one possible outcome however a subscription model may also be made available which would tie in to an iPhone and iPad application.
With Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference only a month away, those hoping for an announcement on the topic will likely be disappointed, with many sources claiming the launch of a streaming iTunes service won’t happen before the third quarter of this year.
Being a proud citizen of the United States of America, I enjoy many fine things in life. I eat Tex-Mex quite regularly, my Chinese food contains almost no vegetables, and I can go to football games (no, not soccer) whenever I get a chance, but there is something missing from my life. No, not a functional countrywide rail system… Spotify!
I had Spotify for about a month in the States (via nefarious methods) but those plodding Europeans shut down my account, saying that I was out of the country for too long. Sorry… I’m just bitter. That month may have been the best month, musically, of my life. I love Pandora to death, but having the ability to make a playlist using whatever song I want made me really happy. Unfortunately, due to what I’m sure is doing of a mentally incompetent Congressman, music laws prevent Spotify in its current form from existing in the US.
Regardless of my personal issues with the music industry, Spotify happily exists in Europe, and the iPhone app has just been approved by Apple according to PaidContent:UK. I could get into the approval process that Spotify had to go through, but the focus here is on me. I’m the one that can’t use the app. So lame. For all of you UK readers, here’s a really cool video of the Spotify app in action. Enjoy!