Entries in iPhone (11)
Many of the major players in streaming personalized radio have developed an iPhone application since the release of the iPhone App Store. After waiting a few months to let them work out some kinks and with the release of Slacker’s app this week, i thought it would be a good time to dive in and compare some of these services.
Last.fm is my choice for best of class. Even though it lacks some of the editorial and genre stations provided by other services, it makes up for it with tag radio, recommendations and artist information. However the main reason I use it over the others is that Last.fm is directly tied to my iTunes listening (my main consumption arena) so the recommendations are the most representative of what I’m listening to day to day.
Pandora provides some excellent programming as well and their “Quick Mix” station provides a good stream of recommendations based on other stations I have created. The simple UI and basic feature set make it super easy to use.
Slacker, the newest entry, is a slick and rich experience. The combination of editorial, genre and artist/song seeded stations provides lots of choice. the ability to fine tune each station is an excellent differentiator. The addition of artist bios and album reviews provides great non-audio discovery mechanisms. The ability to see the next song is also a very nice feature.
Deezer doesn’t have much going for it in terms of a broad feature set. The main reason I use it is something I assume is due to it’s French origin – the recommendations are similar to other services but somehow different enough – I seem to discover some interesting bands I don’t think i would encounter with the others.
Finetune’s iphone app is pretty similar to their website and desktop application. In addition to some good editorial stations (e.g. Best of 2008 genre charts) and artist radio, you can also access your own playlists. unfortunately you cant add items you hear on stations to those playlists. There isn’t much else here feature wise but again worth checking out to see if you like their recommendations.
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I just updated my iPhone with the latest firmware that adds the wi-fi store functionality. Its not often that I require the need to purchase a song on the spot but I can imagine several instances where it can be useful. For instance when I was on vacation last week, a friend of mine played a bunch of new music that I really liked. I didn’t bring my laptop with me and really wanted to get some of those tunes for the rest of my trip. The wifi store would have been a perfect solution.
Featured Releases and Charts
You access the store via a new icon on your main menu screen. The first page you see is Featured New Releases which shows a combination of small promotional banners in addition to selected albums. You can also access What’s Hot and Genre Features as well.
There is another tab for Top 10s where you can view the top albums and songs across the iTunes service. At the bottom of each list there is a link to view 10 more items. When you tap it, the iPhone loads the next 10 items below the previous 10 so you never need to use a back button - a very nice use of “progressive disclosure”.
You can search for songs by typing in what you are looking for. Like iTunes, the wifi store thankfully utilizes live search so as you type you are provided with matching keywords. The more you type, the more accurate the suggestions.
Viewing an artist will display 2 albums (with a link to view all albums) and 25 songs (with a link to view 25 more songs). Albums also show ratings as well as the number of reviews though you cant access reviews at this time. To listen to a song, simply tap the song name and you will hear a 30-second sample.
Purchase and Download
To purchase a song or album, you click the price and it changes to a buy now button. This is a nice feature because it greatly reduces the chance of accidentally purchasing a song. Click the buy now button and the item animates into the download tab in the bottom left. You are then asked to enter your account password. Songs download incredibly fast over a high speed connection.
While the full iTunes store offers much more in terms of exploring and discovering music, the wifi store is a very elegant and impressive implementation. Now the problem is how to control my purchasing impulses when waiting in (the ever expanding) places that have wifi access.
iToner is a simple utility that allows you to use your music collection as iPhone ringtones. Simply drag and drop music files on the iToner window and sync to your iPhone. You can also create a custom playlist within iTunes for your ringtones an use iToner to sync all content of the playlist. To assign a ringtone to a specific contact, just go to the edit contact screen on your iPhone, click “assign ringtone”, and select the ringtone you want.
The concertgoing landscape forever changed the day when that first fan raised his lighter in a darkened arena to pay tribute to his favorite power ballad. In the years that have followed, people stopped smoking and many venues have banned it altogether. A recent trend is fans using cellphones as a hollow replacement to the mesmerizing, elemental lure of flickering fire. No need to worry though - a new iPhone application lets you keep the flame alive in our new clean-living world.
Sometimes when listening to terrestrial radio (oh so music 1.0) you may find yourself in that rare instance where you actually come across a song you like. But terrestrial radio doesn’t always have a means for letting you instantly know what is playing. A new iPhone application allows you to see what songs are currently playing on the radio. The application allows you to browse several major markets to see what is currently on. Data is provided by Yes.com.
Execution is pretty basic at this stage. It would be great if they eventually provided album art, and the ability to purchase and download songs from iTunes (as soon as that feature is available on the iphone of course).
Signal is a terrific new application that allows you to turn your iPhone or Pocket PC into an advanced wireless remote control for iTunes, Winamp, or Windows Media Player. The application allows you to control playback, browse or search your media library, and edit playlists, and rate songs from anywhere in the house - all from the palm of your hand.
After you install the Signal application on your computer you will receive an IP address that can be accessed via Safari on your iPhone. Currently playing songs display in their full album art glory and automatically update when a new song begins. You can also directly view the current playlist/queue with a single tap at the top of the Now Playing screen.
There are a few issues with the software which will hopefully be resolved soon. First, you can’t add songs to a specific playlist, only the playback queue. More importantly, if you navigate to a song in your library from say an album list and play it, there is no way to get back to the original album list. The music icon takes you to the main library menu instead. Sometimes there is a little lag between the iPhone controller and iTunes but most of the time the performance is acceptable. It would also be nice if the Now Playing metadata - artist, album and song were clickable links.
All in all, Signal is a super cool application. The real power comes when iTunes is hooked into your home stereo system. Unlike a traditional remote with limited range and line-of-sight issues, signal works as long as your iPhone is connected to the Internet. As if the iPhone isn’t cool enough, just imagine the look on your friends faces at your next BBQ when they see you controlling your party’s music on your iPhone while cooking for them in your backyard.
SonicLiving members can access their personalized concert calendars and view all shows for any day across 13 major metropolitan regions. Once you find a show, you can view details or find tickets. Unfortunately, unlike the full browser version, you can’t add the show to your calendar, view members who are attending, or post comments. It would also be nice if the service provided you with a view of shows in your wishlist and allowed you to automatically add shows to iCal.
The most interesting feature of the service is the ability to browse the iTunes store. Type the name of an artist into the search box and select the desired artist from the results. You can then browse an artists discography, view album details, listen to 30-second samples, and add songs to a shopping cart. To purchase songs, you need to go to the full browser version of Sonic Living. Unfortunately at this time, albums don’t include artwork and you can’t add full albums to your cart.
Overall, this is a good attempt by a Music 2.0 site to provide an iPhone version of their service. With some of the additional improvements stated above, SonicLiving may provide users with a truly great app in their hands.
Seeqpod, the music search service just released a version of their service for the iPhone. The service allows you to browse and search for mp3s accross the Internet and stream them directly to your iPhone. You can browse popular artists alphabetically or use the search feature to locate an artist of your choice. They have also included a discover feature that allows you to find songs for related artists. Once you locate a song you wish to hear, just tap it with your finger and the mp3 plays back using Quicktime.
The browser version of Seeqpod allows you to add found songs to a playlist and view YouTube videos but these features are currently unavailable in the iPhone version. Like the browser version, the iPhone version does not allow you to download songs directly.
The iPhone won’t be available for about another two weeks, but some very cool iPhone applications are springing up everwhere. ModMyiPhone has a great list of available apps including a cheap gas finder, iChat, iTweetr, OneTrip, and Digg. You can be sure that dozens of others will be available in the coming weeks.