A new music service launched this month recently released as an invite only preview. I subscribed and took a deep look at this new entrant into online music. The service offers an initial free three day trial and subscription options include a $4.99 web or a $9.99 unlimited offer. The web offer gives you on-demand streaming to all music on the Rdio service from a web browser only. The unlimited offer gives you the web features plus music on your mobile phone while connected or unconnected to the service. The mobile device list includes iPhone or Blackberry, there was no mention of iTouch and iPad. Android is in the works. There are three ways you can access the service via browser, mobile device or desktop application.
The Web application user interface is nicely designed; searching for music is fast and the playlist editing features work well. In addition to the audio streaming, community and social features include integration with Facebook and Twitter as well as last.fm. I was able to successfully Tweet a new playlist and share it with others on Twitter. I really liked the share playlist feature and the ability to allow others from the network to collaborate on the shared playlist. The only thing I didn’t like about the playlist features was how many clicks it took to add a track to a playlist. There is no option to add an album easly. Usability in this area needs to be addressed. They have also really overloaded the menu.
On the iPhone the service is similar to the web experience for searching and playing your playlist. I did notice I could play from the web and iPhone at the same time. Something they will likely need to fix. They also have a sync option called offline mode which is interesting. This can be turned on/off by users. When in offline mode there is an orange bar across the top of the application. This could be a useful feature for those that want to save on data charges in the future. Finding the make available offline selection wasn’t initially obvious. You need to first select the playlist for offline and then go to a separate area in the application to Sync. Syncing didn’t take long and the application provides a nice progress bar. Playback over WiFi was flawless and I easily synced a playlist while playing it at the same time. There is a bug in the current iPhone version where it looks like you loose your collection, playlist and ability to search and sync. I found restarting the application would fix this.
Rdio desktop needs work and the limitations around login require you to first open a browser window to login, then login and then start the desktop application. I would expect or hope they fix this quickly because it really detracts from the hard work they put into the rest of the service making it simple with mass marketing appeal. The desktop application features are really limited, basically allowing you to download your purchased MP3 tracks and albums and launch it with one playlist. The only potential benefit to installing the Rdio desktop application is the match collection feature that on the surface seems like a great idea but I was not able to get it to work. It’s an open bug on their support site. Rdio is using Adobe AIR for their desktop application and streaming using Adobe streaming servers in the desktop and web application.
The catalog looked complete from a Major label perspective and they provide 30 second clips when the album or track is only available for purchase and not streaming. The licensed catalog includes WMG, EMI, UMG, Sony, The Orchard and INGroves. My rough estimate would put their catalog at around 3-4 million tracks.
Over all for a beta they have done a nice job and I look forward to the launch.