12 September 2009

Jukebox in the Sky

For as long as I recall, RealNetworks has called its Rhapsody service a “jukebox in the sky.” These days it’s probably trendy to say it’s your music library in the cloud. The idea is that you pay a monthly fee, and have access to any music you want, wherever you go.

Now that there’s Rhapsody for iPhone, this is finally coming true.

Since I have a Rhapsody account from work, I downloaded the app as soon as it was available, and tried using it to replace the iPod feature of my iPhone 3GS. Searching was straightforward, so I queued up a bunch of music and headed towards the bus stop. That meant I was leaving WiFi for a 3G signal and the song stopped and restarted. And stopped and didn’t restart. Then Rhapsody crashed.

But later attempts worked totally fine. There was one momentary pause, but then the music resumed. And I was able to search and queue up more music while on the bus.

There are still some issues with the software. Rhapsody gave me a “My Music” list that is not my music at all (maybe new accounts don’t get saddled with this). Queuing music is awkward (be sure to press rather than tap if want to actually queue — which I always do — rather than play instantly). And Rhapsody can’t access some hardware features (like the extremely important pause button on the remote) or play in the background.

Is the jukebox in the sky worth $13/month (plus tax), given you’re renting music and have nothing if you end the subscription? I certainly think it’s more worthwhile now that you’re not tethered to a computer, or have to pre-load a crappy player like a Sansa. A touch device with no remote is a pretty crappy player too, though it makes a big difference to be able to manage things on the fly. And it was very cool to pick a song I’d never heard and immediately get to listen to it.

So I think it’s finally worth trying — you can get a 14 day free trial, and the iPhone app is free.

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