Apr 13 AT 12:22 AM Guest Blogger 50 Comments

Slacker Radio: Streaming Music to your Android Powered Device


Online music streaming has quickly become a staple in many people’s online experience. It is certainly a regular occurrence for my co-workers to walk past my office and find me with headphones plugged into the computer rocking out to my new favorite online music service, Slacker Radio. Slacker Radio has the same premise (and some very similar functionality) as the popular Pandora service, but offers a much cleaner user interface and, in my opinion, a much better Android experience.

I am a stickler for a pleasing user interface. In this area, Slacker definitely does not disappoint. For example, each station you play features album artwork for the current song, the next song in the queue, and minimalist buttons at the bottom of the screen. Slacker looks like it was built for the mobile platform, and it delivers. Most people prefer function over looks in a music player, and Slacker does well here also. The application allows you to choose from one of 100 preset stations or to create a station of your own by typing in a favorite artist. Slacker will then create a station of similar-sounding musicians to enjoy. Additionally, a useful widget gives easy access to basic necessities such as play/pause, skipping songs, and blocking songs.

Similar to most online streaming music sites, Slacker comes in two main flavors: a free version which is ad-supported and allows you to skip a limited number of songs per hour, and a premium version which offers no ads, unlimited song skipping, and station caching. The slacker application (currently in version 2.0.65) itself is free, and can be downloaded from the Android Market.
Subscription pricing and more information on Slacker Radio can be found at www.slacker.com.

The Good

  • Overall a very nice user interface
  • Ability to create stations based on your music taste
  • Widget with all the basic functions
  • In my opinion, it provides a better user experience on the Android platform.
  • Over 100 preset stations for those indecisive days
  • The developers at Slacker are constantly updating the app.

The Bad

  • Because Slacker is newer than Pandora, they have a smaller song base to draw from. As the application gets more popular, it should rival Pandora in this regard. Actually Slacker has about 4x the music catalog of Pandora. This is because they work with the labels and they provide fresh content.
  • Free version is ad-supported, and only allows 6 song skips per hour per station.

Final Verdict

As someone who has been unimpressed with the direction Pandora is going, Slacker Radio has offered a refreshing new way to experience online music. I strongly encourage anyone who listens to streaming music to try out Slacker for a few days/weeks, and decide for yourself whether Slacker or Pandora is better for you. Me? I spent a good deal of time with both Slacker and Pandora, and I am now a happy Slacker Radio Plus subscriber.

Note: This review was submitted by Anthony Domanico as part of our app review contest.

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  • http://www.theblarg.com nathan118

    What direction is pandora going?

    • http://Website Dave K

      That’s exactly the question I have as well. I don’t think Pandora is doing anything wrong at all. The interface is good, the content is good, and the one time I had a problem with it on my phone, the developers emailed me back less than a day after I contacted them.

      If Slacker Radio has less content than Pandora, then it doesn’t make the cut.

      • http://adomanico01.blogspot.com/ adomanico01

        As another respondent pointed out, Slacker actually now claims to have more content than Pandora. What I meant by the “direction pandora was going” was that you can now only listen to a certain amount of songs at a time, the amount of in-program ads has skyrocketed. Those two in particular turned me off to Pandora pretty quick, and I can honestly say that Slacker has been everything I’ve been looking for in a music player.

        • http://Website Miguel

          Based on your review, I will give Slacker Radio a try. I have never used it.

          However, I will say that like Pandora, these programs usually follow the same pattern. They start off totally free with no ads. The slowly they start turning on more ads, limiting skips, and offering subscriptions for features that used to be free, but mixed in with new features. Slacker will be no different.

          These companies are in it to make money, make no question about it. Sure maybe they are passionate about their product, and hope it makes you happy, but they have bills to pay as well. Very quickly they realize that free for the end user usually means a lot less money for them.

          I have no problem with ads as it serves to inform me of new products I may be interested in, and it helps support the company, the artists, the music executives (lol), and keeps my out-of-pocket costs minimal.

          • http://Website Anthony

            Great comment Miguel. We at Androidandme have the best reader base of all the Android blogs. I’m convinced! :)

            I do agree that most online media players are trending toward ad-supported in order to keep their service free, which isn’t problematic in and of itself, but it felt with Pandora like it came without a warning. Slacker already has many of the differentiating features for its premium subscribers, which costs about $45/year.

            Where I think Slacker truly stands out is that the user interface and functionality of both its website and Android app is far superior to Pandora. Pandora’s web interface specifically leaves much to be desired in my opinion, and is in severe need of a revamp. Slacker’s, by contrast, is much easier on the eyes and uses more of the screen space.

            Also, Slacker feels like it’s making leaps and bounds of improvements in its music base. Even over the last few weeks I have felt that there are many new songs and artists in their repertoire. They are also continually working to update the app. Even from the time I wrote the application review to the time it was published, they released an upgrade to the app.

  • http://Website Jackson

    Slacker does not have less music than Pandora. It has almost 4 times as many songs (2.5 mil to 750 k) . Ill leave links later – I’m on my phone now. There’s also a fundamental difference in the algorithm, which ill properly explain later.

    • http://adomanico01.blogspot.com/ adomanico01

      I definitely agree that they have bolstered their base recently, but the one negative I’ve had from Slacker is that when I’m playing a self-made station (based on the Beatles for example), I see repeat songs much more frequently on Slacker than I did on Pandora. Maybe instead I should have put it “feels” like there is a smaller song base rather than there is a smaller song base.

      • http://Website Jackson

        Links on the song counts
        From Pandora: http://blog.pandora.com/faq/contents/29.html
        Slacker (from Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slacker_(music_service)

        Before wikipedia haters start, I’ve emailed Slacker Support to get a number from them and couldn’t find one on their website.

        As far as the algorithm difference goes –

        Pandora “choos[es] music based on its characteristics rather than cultural associations [which Slacker does].”

        quoted from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/08/technology/08pandora.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

        Thanks for updating the misconception adomanico1 – its definitely viable that because of the algoritm difference, Slacker keeps you in a narrower focus – however with both you can get a general or more specific focus (as far as semming like you hear the same songs goes). Also, should Slacker’s more music be in “the bad” – maybe it should be changed to something along the lines of “although slacker has about 4x the amount of music, I hear more repeats and less diverse of a selection.”

        Either way, thanks for the article

        • http://Website Anthony

          I think Slacker is making many noticeable improvements to it’s music base. I listen to Beatles radio primarily, and since the date I wrote this article, at least 2 new artists have been added to that channel, greatly increasing the scope of songs played.

          I wish I had the opportunity to edit reviews as more details emerged. I would have fixed this part and added in a piece about caching immediately.

  • http://Website complainer

    so when does this whole similar artist crap stop? i dont want to listen to some something that sounds nothing like what i want to listen to, just because some company labels them as similar. annoying

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Very soon. Slacker is going to offer on-demand music in a future release.

      • http://adomanico01.blogspot.com/ adomanico01

        Though I don’t really have a beef with the similar artist stuff, on-demand music would be a very nice upgrade.

        I don’t know how the heck Taylor finds this stuff. I searched the Slacker site for like an hour and couldn’t find anything on upcoming releases/features.

  • http://www.myradioworld.com/ Adamtree

    Pandora is quite similar to the software I use called myradioworld..

  • http://Website Scot

    Maybe I missed it in the review, but the killer-app part of Slacker that nobody seems to mention is caching. Slacker can cache stations for later listening up to the size of your memory card. My 16gb car on my Droid has room for 25 cached Slacker stations. I cache them overnight via Wifi then they’re available for listening the next morning with no network access and associated battery drain.

    • http://Website Josh

      That is awesome!!!

    • http://Website Anthony

      You’re right. Because we’re limited to 200-400 words, I left out caching, which is an awesome feature. I hope to do a comparative review of all streaming services once I’m hired at AAM :).

  • http://Website Tim

    I listen to slacker all the time at work. I choose to use my desktop PC. It is much better than Pandora. Keeps decent track of your favorites, has premade radio stations etc.

  • http://throwthemind.com Nathan

    I have found anytime I listen to Slacker my battery dies way faster than listening to Pandora. I’m guessing because Slacker is streaming better quality, thus running my 3g more than Pandora. This is the main reason I stick with Pandora.

    • http://Website Danny

      Slacker has better audio quality and uses a more compressed audio codec (similar to aac) that is smaller in size and therefore uses less battery.

  • http://frostygoodness.com Frosty Goodness

    If I was going to pay, I would pick Slacker. Their paid version allows for unlimited skips, while Pandora still has limits even if you upgrade.

    I did an unscientific test between the two (marking the 10 songs it picked based on the same seed song) and found Slacker to choose a much more enjoyable selection of music.

    • http://Website Anthony

      Awesome! I have found Slacker to have a better mix of music based on orginal song/artist played as well. Their generated stations seem to hit the mark much better than Pandora ever has for me! I’m not going to try to sell you on the Radio plus version of Slacker Radio, but I definitely enjoy it! :)

      • http://Website Jay

        I tried Slacker a couple of years ago when it hit blackberry (pre-android days-I shudder to think of it) but I didn’t like it then because it never played songs I liked. It would play a song I liked (and maybe two or three) but then a string of songs that were so off the mark that once I ran out of skips I would just stop listening because I disliked their picks so much. I have been very happily using Pandora since it’s been available for android, and it really seems to know my taste, even out of genre tracks it chooses fit me to a tee. Based on your review, I decided to give slacker a try and found the exact same results; first song was spot on, next six were not even close to being anything I liked or even vaguely similar to what I had chosen.

        This was a good review because it made me want to try out Slacker, but after trying it out, I think it could have been more objective and pointed out some of the real “flaws.”

        • http://Website Danny

          I have the exact opposite problem… Pandora is horrible! Just last night I decided to try Pandora again, logged in, started listening to some Ozzy and then the next song was Brian Adams! Slacker stays within the genres very well and those few times it doesn’t, not only can you ban the song but you can ban the artist. Also, if you only want the hits you can set it up to only play hits or you can set it up to play deeper tracks. I want to like Pandora because it’s so popular but it’s just not that good at staying within genres. Also, the audio quality of Slacker is fantastic, even on edge.

          With a little setup Slacker blows away Pandora and Last.fm!

          • http://Website Jay

            Huh, interesting. I’ve never really had that issue with Pandora. Well, I will give Slacker some more time then and see if I change my mind. I was hesitant to try Pandora based on my previous experience with Slacker, but that was years ago, and have enjoyed Pandora since I tried it shortly after it came out.

  • http://Website Jason

    Review gets a B-.

    Reason is how can you talk about Slacker without mentioning caching? I know you said you have a word limit, but that should be in the first paragraph because it is a major differentiator between Slacker and other services like Pandora and Last.fm.

    Otherwise, good review. I ditched Pandora long ago in favor of Last.fm, mostly because Pandora has too much repetition. Last.fm is fine, but I switched to Slacker because of better sound quality and the ability to have multiple custom stations. I pay so that I don’t have to listen to the ads (though they are relatively unobtrusive), have unlimited skips (though Slacker is good enough that you are not skipping songs very often) and so I can cache stations (this is their biggest selling point IMO).

    • http://Website Anthony

      Very good point. Thankfully we are open to criticism (I am anyway). If I were able to, I would do a quick edit and add a section highlighting the ability to cache radio stations for offline play, because I agree it really sets Slacker above the rest.

      That being said, there are two reasons I left it out.
      1. Space limit, which I fully intent to expand on all the reviews I’ve submitted if selected to be an AAM staff member to paint a more full picture, which might take 5-700 words.

      2. Though this feature is nice to ahve, I have never found a personal use for it.

      Again, many thanks for the feedback, I do appreciate the constructive criticism, and will use it to deliver better reviews in the future! Seriously, very much appreciated!

      • http://Website sally

        Caching uses much less battery power than streaming over 3G or WiFi.

      • http://Website bman

        I didn’t think I would use caching either until recently when I was flying and forgot my MP3 player…I quickly logged into the airport WIFI and cached three stations through Slacker since I didn’t know how much time would be cached…on a three hour flight, I didn’t get through even one full station list (and I skipped a few songs). Fantastic feature! I now use it at work to save some battery from the data connection.

  • http://Website Anthony

    So it looks like the orginial “Needs Improvement” section has been changed to note the fact that Slacker actually has 4x the music base of Pandora. That new information alone I feel is enough to set Slacker apart as THE streaming music service for Android. Where I think my misstep happened is that I wasn’t able to find any hard data on song repertoire, and the radio stations Slacker generated based on artist or song I listened to felt like it had many more repeats than happened on Pandora. I do apologize for the miscommunication originally, but it looks like it’s been fixed! Thanks AAM staff.

  • http://Website sally

    Slacker’s free service gives you an unlimited number of hours of play time. Pandora cuts you off at 40 hours/month.

    • http://Website Anthony

      right… unlimited play time, 6-7 skipped songs.

  • http://www.everythinglegit.com Ramon

    I love this dude!(Anthony). This review make me want to try Slacker again. Also the fact he replies to comments and keeps a good convo is great when I’m reading on the train :). No offence to the AAM staff.

    • http://adomanico01.blogspot.com/ adomanico01

      Ummm…wow! I love you too Ramon! :)

      It’s definitely important to keep the reader base engaged, and we in the android community have some of the most knowledgeable and opinionated (in a good way) users I’ve seen, and I see tremendous benefit in engaging these folks in a conversation about apps and news. It might not always work, as some apps lend themselves better to dialog than others, but I will always try to do three things in my reviews.

      1. Facilitate the dialogue by actually responding to readers.

      2. Update the review with bits of knowledge left in the comments by members of the android community. Especially when they point out something I’ve omitted or just got wrong.

      3. Attempt to generate some buzz about the article through Twitter and Facebook.

      Thanks for the comments again, Ramon. Hopefully I’ll be bringing you all many reviews to come.

  • http://www.deathtotheflippers.com flipper01

    I want to give Slacker a try but it seems it’s not available outside the US (I’m in the UK), it would be great if you could mention that in the review, but I’m not sure it would be very easy for you to find that out from inside the US.

    • http://Website Anthony

      Unfortunately, it does appear that Slacker Radio is currently only available in the U.S. and in Canada (Premium subscription only in Canada)

    • http://Website Jason

      Yeah, but you have Spotify!

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  • http://Website Kimmie

    HELP PLEASE! i’m trying to get into slacker with my new phone and it says not reconizing email address and i’m putting in same one as fb but will not let me log in.

    • http://Website Dougy fresh

      You need to put the e-mail you used to register for slacker and not the e-mail you used to register for Facebook.

      making an account is super easy, worst case scenario is you make a new one (assuming your not already paying)

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  • http://Website trey crossley

    it was good just had one problem when i chose a genre like hip hop i could not get back to selection list i have a galaxy s vibrant

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