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New Rdio App Amps Up Music Discovery for iPhones


A new version of Rdio’s iPhone app is available, and if you’re a fan of the music streaming service, you should download it immediately. If you haven’t yet turned the corner on subscription-based streaming, this update makes it worth a look.

Some of Rdio’s best tools for discovering new music were previously only available on the website, but the new app now includes these tools, vastly improving the mobile experience. It’s also more stable and easier to use.

For those of you new to Rdio (“ar-dee-o”), here’s the deal: It’s an on-demand, cloud-based jukebox. You search for an artist, an album name or a song title, and you can click on one of the results and start listening immediately. The service has around 8 million songs available for streaming. Sure, there are some holes in Rdio’s library, and other services go deeper. But no service has everything, and Rdio is deep enough for almost everyone. You can hook up with your Facebook and Twitter friends and see what they’re listening to, and you can share playlists with each other.

For $5 a month, you can listen through your desktop browser. For $10 a month, you can also listen through your iPhone, BlackBerry, Android phone, Windows 7 phone, a desktop client or a Sonos system if you have one. The $10 plan also enables you sync tracks to your mobile phone for offline listening. Whether Apple’s new subscription policy will change Rdio’s pricing is still a question mark.

Full disclosure: I’ve been an Rdiohead for the last six months or so. I have the website pinned as an App Tab in my browser at the office and at home, and I log at least two or three hours of streaming per day. I also have the app installed on my old iPhone 3G, which is Velcroed to the wall in the kitchen. I stream through my Jambox while flambéing my crêpe suzette.

This level of devotion comes from the same guy who only a year ago was constantly arguing that subscription-based streaming, rental, and other cloud-based jukebox horse pucky would never, ever work. I was strictly a “if I can’t download the files, I won’t pay a dime” person.

I tried them all. To me, MOG is meh, though others love it. Spotify is interesting, but it’s too flaky for me here in the states. Too many hoops.

Now, I give Rdio $10 a month. The things that really turned me around were Rdio’s discovery tools on its website — the social aspect lets me see what my friends are listening to, the recommendations are surprisingly decent, and the New Releases tab in the web app lets me stream just about every new album the same day it hits the stores. Yes, calling up your faves instantly from the search box is a big draw, but these little darkened corners — browsing the automated recommendations and checking out new releases — are where I spend the bulk of my time on Rdio. For me, it takes all the pain out of discovery and all the risk out of buying new music.

And this is why I’m excited about the new iPhone update — Rdio has finally baked those extra features into the app.

The old iPhone app, which the company launched with, wasn’t much to talk about. It was difficult to navigate and it was buggy. It did let me see what my friends were listening to, but the recommendations weren’t there and the new releases were harder to dig out.

This week’s update, which appeared in the iTunes Store on Wednesday, changes all that. There’s a new dashboard that looks like the Facebook app’s dashboard. It lets you jump into New Releases or Recommendations with a tap. There’s a big search box at the top. Icons can be trashed or re-arranged. There’s also a new icon to browse Top Charts, but (surprise!) the wider Rdio community has the same terrible taste in music as the general populace. I’ll stick to my friends, thank you.

I was given the opportunity to test the app on my iPhone 4, and I spent the last couple of days listening to full albums both over Wi-Fi and over AT&T’s 3G network in San Francisco. The sound quality on 3G is still good — a little crunchy during the delicate bits, but overall quite decent. Wi-Fi sounds stellar.

General usability is better too. The coolest new item is the persistent player widget at the bottom of the app. If you wanted to get to your current selection in the old app, you’d have to dance through the menus. Now, you just drag the player up from the bottom of the screen from anywhere within the app.

Lastly, the update is iPhone only, so if you’re a Droid or a Dell Venue Pro user, you’re stuck with the old code for now.

So if you’re not yet an Rdio person, strike while the iron is hot. And if you’re a fan — and an iPhone user — this update will make you happy.

WIRED New interface puts the best of the website’s discovery tools into the app. Not nearly as buggy as the old app. Persistent player is a plus. All those jams beamed from space, instantly.

TIRED New app is iPhone only. The library is deep but don’t have everything, so you’ll have to be adventurous. Only works in the U.S. and Canada for now. Some think $10 a month is steep.

Photos by Jim Merithew/Wired.com

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