Well… you probably heard the news that Google bought the popular music streaming provider “Songza” the other day for a purported $15 million. I remember when the app dropped in BlackBerry World. There were lots of happy people, and some not so happy because it was an Android port. Curiously, when I went to BlackBerry World this morning to re-download it and compare for this article I found the app to be oddly… missing… Yet another reason I dislike Google.
I’ve seen apps disappear before, and re-appear better than previous editions, but somehow I get the feeling that this is not going to be the case here. Call me suspicious.
But that’s not really the point of the post today anyway. I wanted to share a couple of music streaming apps I’ve been trying out. They are Slacker, and the aptly named rad.io.
First up, Slacker.
This is a polished and nice looking native app. The transitions are smooth, and the album graphics are well rendered. You get two choices in the settings for audio quality, “Best” which I’m assuming is streaming at 128Kbps, and “Good” which I think might be at 64Kbps. Those choices become important depending on your location and data plan. If you’re on WiFi, you can stream away with nary a care on the “Best” setting as your phone won’t be using carrier data. Out and about however, you will be using your cellular data.
There are quite a few genres of music to sort through and enjoy, all neatly laid out with a nice play button to hit and get right to listening immediately. Every few songs you hear a short ad, not really an obnoxious thing especially since the basic service is free. You can get rid of the ads, and get additional features such as lyrics if you upgrade to a $3.99/month subscription.
Overall, I really like this app. I do however hear that it’s missing a couple of features found on other platforms. Perhaps a little encouragement is in order.
Next up is a little gem I discovered called “rad.io“. As its’ name suggests, rad.io gives you access to countless radio stations from all over the planet. Rock and Roll from Russia baby.
Although the overall look and feel of this app seems somewhat spartan, what it lacks in eye candy it more than makes up for in diversity. The sheer number of genres available from podcasts to news, and of course music is truly mind boggling!
The streaming rate is more variable than Slacker, and as opposed to you getting to choose which rate to use, you just get what is offered. I’ve seen rates from the aforementioned 128Kbps and 64Kbps, all the way down to a tiny 32Kbps. There is certainly a discernable difference between the choices, but many won’t care. 32Kbps does sound fairly “compressed”.
Both of these apps connect nicely to the Bluetooth system in my car, and I had no trouble commuting to work and home with uninterrupted tunes.
Regarding the cellular data usage, I found some difference in opinion out there defining how much data is consumed when using these streaming apps. I reached out to rad.io customer support to ask them how much a 128Kbps stream uses. Their reply came back very quickly and stated that a 128Kbps stream consumes approx. 60mb per hour. I tried this out myself the other night. On my way home from work I started up rad.io at 5:09pm and let it run for almost an hour listening to a 128Kbps stream. The next morning I checked my Telus data usage and sure enough, for the hour between 5:00 and 6:00pm the night before I had consumed 52.5mb. Obviously, choosing a lower stream rate reduces the data consumption.
What do you think? Let’s give Google the digital middle finger, and support some native devs. Are any of you out there in UTB land using these apps?
Discuss in forums here.