Rhapsody, the streaming music service previously accessible only by computer or iPhone/iPod Touch, recently released their beta app to the Android market. Rhapsody is a subscription-based service which provides on-demand access to its catalog of over 9 million songs, giving users complete control over what he or she wants to listen to. Although Rhapsody isn’t the first on-demand music service to hit Android, it is the first to combine on-demand access with streaming radio stations, a powerful combo which may distinguish Rhapsody from the oncoming wave of similar services to come.
Upon launching the Rhapsody app for the very first time, you will be asked to log in if you are an existing Rhapsody user, or to register a new account for a free 14-day trial. Registration is quick, and does not ask for credit card information in order begin the trial period. Afterwards, you are greeted with the home page where you can, among other things, search for an artist, album, or song, view your playlists, view your library, and listen to Rhapsody Radio. In comparison to Pandora, Rhapsody Radio leaves something to be desired. Stations are somewhat limited, as users can only browse through Rhapsody’s pre-selected stations, which can be filtered by popularity, genre, or “key artists”. There is no social integration such as scrobbling or Facebook support, and there is no ability to tailor the station to your preferences via a like/dislike button. Like individual tracks and entire albums, stations can be added to your library for quick access.
Begin playing a track and you will be taken to the “Now Playing” screen. At the top of the screen are playback controls, a Home button, and a clever button which drops the screen down to reveal the previous screen you were in behind it. At the bottom of the screen is a queue, where songs can be added and rearranged to any order of your liking. In the middle lies the album cover and artist/track title. Long press on this part of the screen and you will be able to purchase the track from Rhapsody, add it to your playlist or library, view more from the artist, or remove the song from your queue.
What I liked:
- Great selection – browsing through an artist’s discography even includes tracks on compilation albums.
- Interface allows you to easily find more music from an artist or group you’re listening to.
- Songs and entire albums can be added to your queue, playlist, or library. This is an essential feature for those looking to use their Android handset as their main media device.
What needs improvement:
- On the second day of my trial period, I began receiving a message reading “5 days left in trial” and suggesting I sign up for a subscription.
- Offline playback has not yet been implemented. Eventually, users will be able to download tracks to their handset for when they have no signal.
- Social integration and has become intertwined with the mobile music experience. I’d like to see such features included in future updates.
- Navigation could be improved slightly, as some controls are long-press and some are click-through.
Audiophiles may be inclined to spend the $10 monthly subscription to have access to an entire library of music, but Rhapsody will face competition from less expensive apps. Users who only listen to music on the fly may prefer streaming their own collection via Orb or Gmail, or using free streaming radio services.
Note: This review was submitted by Shane Manning as part of our app review contest.