The Many Faces of: Rdio

[In our series The Many Faces of, we compare a single app across multiple platforms to tell you which one has the better interface, features, and functionality. Only one app will emerge victorious!]

The Now Playing screen on the Android version of Rdio.

Before Spotify made its way across the pond, Rdio was one of the few on-demand music streaming services in North America. Unlike Pandora or Last.FM, which play songs at random based on your tastes, Rdio allows you to select which songs you would like to listen to.

But what good are unlimited tunes if you can't take them with you? Luckily, Rdio offers apps for Windows Phone 7, iOS, and Android, so you can listen to your playlists wherever you go. Unfortunately, like many cross platform apps, your experience may vary depending on which platform you have. After spending some time with all three versions of Rdio, I can safely say that the difference between the three is quite noticeable.

Performance

Rdio on Android Ice Cream Sandwich

The app works well on both iOS and Android, though the Android version did crash on me twice. The iOS version of the app never crashed, but did hang a couple times. Exiting the app and opening it again seemed to clear the problem up, and my listening experience wasn't affected. The Windows Phone 7 version is the worst performing of the three and often takes a few seconds before responding to input. Even then, the app frequently mistakes swipes for taps, causing you to select items that you don't want.

Winner: Android and iOS. The both of these versions may have their problems with stability and lag, but at least they are more functional than the Windows Phone 7 version.

Design

Rdio on iOS

It's not often I get to say this, but I prefer the design of the Android version over iOS and Windows Phone 7. The icons in the iOS version feel cramped together and navigation isn't as intuitive as on Android; menus are buried and sometimes it is difficult to accurately press some of the smaller icons. I recognize that the iPhone's screen is smaller than most of the Android phones out there today, but the least the developers could have done was make some of the icons slightly larger to accommodate the difference.

Rdio on Windows Phone 7

Though I've praised the design of Windows Phone 7 and its apps in the past, Rdio is one of the uglier apps I've encountered for the platform. The vibrant blue theme, found in both the iOS and Android versions, has been stripped away in favor of faint grey text on a dark green-blue background. The icons are the same as those found in the iOS app, but the Heavy Rotation and Recent Activity parts of the app have been turned into hubs, providing some color against the murky background. Your queue is no longer directly accessible on the main navigation page, and can only be accessed via the Now Playing screen. The design of the Windows Phone 7 version will leave you lost in an ever shifting maze of menus that change depending on which screen you are on or whether you have music playing in the background.

Winner: Android. The iOS app felt cramped and the Windows Phone 7 app can be difficult to navigate.

Features and Extras

Rdio costs more on iOS than it does elsewhere.

Unlike both the Android and Windows Phone 7 versions of the app, Rdio on iOS doesn't allow you to use a gift card to purchase an Rdio subscription. Also missing from the iOS version is the ability to disconnect the app from the Rdio network to turn off syncing. It’s a useful feature to have, especially if you aren't one of the lucky few to still have an unlimited data plan. One upside to using the iOS version: You can sign out of your Rdio account without having to completely delete the app and re-install it.

Something I discovered while using these different versions of Rdio is that buying a subscription through the iOS app will cost you $5 more than if you were to buy the same subscription online or through the Android or Windows Phone 7 apps. The upside is that you can use your iTunes account to purchase the subscription (the Android and Windows Phone versions take you to a mobile site where you have to enter in your payment info), but I'm not sure that convenience is worth the extra $5.

Winner: Android and Windows Phone 7, for not charging you extra and letting you disable syncing.

Overall Winner: Android

All three apps could be improved, but if you are a staunch Rdio user and have to pick one or the other—go with the Android version. It may crash on you once in a while, but at least you won't be charged an extra $5, navigation is smooth and responsive, and you'll have the option to buy a subscription using a gift card.

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