Music streaming services have grown in popularity, with Rdio being one of the most popular options in the United States until Spotify jumped across the pond in July 2011. Since that date, Rdio and Spotify have been two of the biggest contenders for monthly subscriptions.
The reason I keep coming back to Rdio is that it seems to be a better fit for how I want to manage my music. I want a true iTunes-in-the-cloud solution and Rdio provides that. Even though Spotify is planning to add a collection feature and to help in music discovery, I am really liking Rdio’s innovations. With version 2.0, though, it is not just about a new coat of paint; Rdio 2.0 features new and innovative features, which positions itself in a good spot for competition of monthly subscription revenue.
What You See
A big part of the new version 2.0 is the redesign. The sidebar plays a big part now, and can be accessed by swiping right anywhere on the screen. This allows you to access all of the general functions of the app with a welcome addition, which is the ability to mark an item to play later.
Missing previously in the Rdio apps was the ability to mark an item to play later. The feature was in the Mac app but was unfortunately absent from Rdio on iOS . With version 2.0 a queue has been added to the sidebar. The queue is a collection of items that are playing next. It shows a variety of items, but also shows the currently playing tracks with the items up next. It does not matter if you are playing an album or just a track, the queue will show a section called Play Later. This section houses albums or tracks which have been marked to play later.
Marking tracks or albums to Play Later is a great way to queue up some new music to see if it is worth adding to your collection.
The sidebar also houses other important aspects of the app including the history section and a list of playlists. The history section is especially useful for trying to find previously played albums or tracks that might have escaped from being saved to a playlist or the collection. The playlist is what you would expect, but there has been a huge improvement from the previous versions of the app. Previously when saving a track to a playlist, a confirmation box would appear requiring input from the user. Now this has been removed and a visual confirmation is still presented but without required action from the user. While this might sound like a subtle improvement, I really appreciate not having to click an extra OK when adding a bunch of songs to a playlist.
Search functionality is a huge feature in a music streaming service and will probably be one of the most used areas of the app. Whether you hear a song on the radio or a friend suggest you check out a track, the ability to be able to find what you are looking for quickly is crucial. The search area is always a swipe away in the sidebar. Search works well but about a third of the time I end up pressing the wrong search result. For example, I am looking for the The Heist by Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis, well after typing in The Heist I receive results matching the term. When performing this search on a a 4G network or slower, sometimes the search is not as fast as the results that are displayed. While I think I am pressing the result for the The Heist album, it is actually another album which I did not intend to hit.
The frustration of this is doubled because when swiping back to the sidebar to press the desired result you realize the search is lost. You have to type in the search again. Just to prevent situations like this I wish the search activity was remembered, for at least a brief period of time.
One huge factor on designing for the iPhone 5 with a music client is deciding what to do the album art. The iTunes method is to center it amongst the other controls such as playback. Rdio decided to not limit itself to the center but rather uses the extra screen real estate to put the tracks under the album art. There is never a cutoff, just a seamless flow from album art to tracks and I think the design was implemented nicely.
One of the biggest features that was added version 2.0 is the playing elsewhere feature. Since Rdio is available everywhere it knows that you might leave it playing on one source and forget. When opening Rdio on another device, it realizes that the service is being used at another destination and it will inform you with a message that it is playing elsewhere. While this is not an incredibly groundbreaking action, Rdio will allow the user either take over the service and start playing on your iOS device or use the iOS device as a remote for the other location. Yes, that means you can control music coming through your iPad from your iPhone or vice versa. Also it means that I can stream Rdio on my Mac and use Airfoil to stream it through the entire house, and use my iOS device as the remote.
The idea is so simple but the implementation is great and sold me on Rdio. The ability to control music on another device is one I use frequently and it works really well. I have had a few instances after lengthy jam sessions where the remote functionality ceases to work and the current device becomes the streaming client, but these instances were rare.
As previously mentioned, Rdio on your iOS device is not free and will require a monthly subscription. The current rate is $9.99 if you subscribe through their website. Subscriptions are also available through an in-app purchase, although the cost is $14.99 a month. This has caused some confusion amongst consumers as noted here. The subscription gets you unlimited streaming with no ads. There is also a free plan which gives users a monthly limit of music — just enough get them eager to subscribe.
Rdio fits my music needs better in comparison to Spotify and I really like the direction the company took their iOS apps with the update to version 2.0. There was disappointment as I noticed that recommendations had been removed from the update, but I noticed on their forms that the team is working on adding it.
Overall, the version 2.0 upgrade took care of some of original complaints and added new features which really improves the service. Taking away the user required action when adding tracks to a playlist is a welcome feature, and being able to manage what is playing through my Mac using the iOS app as a remote is very useful. If you are thinking about trying out Rdio, they do offer a free service with a monthly limit of songs. Also users can download the Rdio app and receive a free seven-day trial of the unlimited option to really get a feel for the service.