Rdio Music Service: Mobile, Social, Impressive -- and Now Open to All
And the subscription music services just keep coming: Rdio, from Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, is leaving private beta today. That means that anyone can sign up for this ambitious new offering, which includes a Web-based service plus mobile apps for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. It competes against such services as Rhapsody and MOG, and from my time with it so far, it seems to do so formidably.
In terms of features, Rdio may be the most comprehensive iTunes substitute so far. (For the moment, at least–the competition is pretty intense in this category.) Like the late, lamented Lala, it can scan your music collection and add albums you already have to your online collection. (It doesn't match Lala's ability to give you online access even for stuff that's not in its own collection, though, and it's not finding every track in my library.) Its iPhone app supports iOS4 multitasking, so you can listen in the background while using another app. It has a neat syncing feature that lets you find music in your desktop browser, then auto-download it to your phone for listening whether or not you have Internet access.
Like Lala, Rdio also emphasizes the social aspect of music: Its Web-based version lets you find and follow friends and peek at the music they've been listening to. Every time I try a feature like this, I'm struck by the fact that my friendships almost never seem to have anything to do with shared tastes in music. But maybe you'll find it a useful way to discover songs you'll like.
The service says it currently offers seven million songs–fewer than Rhapsody’s ten million plus or the 13 million in Apple's iTunes Store, but still impressive.
Rdio is a paid service, and follows the standard pricing for subscription music: The Web-based version is $4.99 a month, and Web-plus-mobile is $9.99 a month. In both cases, you can listen to all the music you like as long as you keep paying. The $9.99 fee seems to cover multiple devices (Rhapsody charges $14.99 a month if you want to listen on more than one mobile gadget).
Subscription music remains a theoretically appealing idea that surprisingly few folks choose to pay for. (People who are willing to plunk down money for songs, it seems, prefer to buy them outright rather than rent them.) But Rdio comes close to erasing all the downsides of subscriptions except for the need to keep paying, and I'll bet its major competitors will match most of its features soon. If you'd like to feast on music for $10 a month, give it a listen.