Songza 3.0 for iOS: The single best music-streaming app?

With its new user interface, improved search capabilities, and continuing freedom from commercials, Songza deserves a permanent home on your iDevice.

Songza 3 for iOS has a cleaner interface and a terrific new search feature.
Songza 3 for iOS has a cleaner interface and a terrific new search feature. Screenshots by Rick Broida/CNET

Not to gush, but I've loved Songza from the moment I installed it on my iPhone -- way back in June, 2012.

In fact, it has displaced both Pandora and Slacker as my music-streaming app of choice. That's because Songza builds playlists based on whatever activity I'm currently engaged in (working, making dinner, fighting commuter traffic) or mood I'm in (gloomy, happy, romantic), and does so without interruptions or money. You read that right: the app is free, and the music plays commercial-free.

With version 3.0 for iOS, Songza just got even better. (It's also available for Android, but hasn't been similarly updated yet.) It's sporting a vastly improved UI, handy new search and navigation features, and the promise of better audio quality.

Specifically, better audio when you plug in your headphones. That's thanks to Audyssey-powered HQ Audio (a 2.0 feature tweaked in this release), which Songza says "significantly improves your headphone sound quality without increasing your data plan usage." The feature supports around 200 headphone models.

Songza's spotlight feature has always been the Concierge, which offers half a dozen playlist suggestions based on the time of day. Late morning, for example, you'll see categories like Working Out, Driving, and Enjoying the Morning. Tap any of those to further narrow your choices (Golden Oldies, Sunny Caribbean, etc.), and then finally you'll see three available playlists aimed at perfectly matching your mood and activity.

In version 3.0, you can tap and hold any category; Songza will immediately start streaming a playlist it thinks you'll like. It's a nice little time-saver, and practically a safety measure for drivers. Alternately, while viewing the main Concierge screen, you can now shake your iPhone, then tell the app what you need music for (writing, relaxing, waking up, etc.).

Songza's never been too adept at finding specific artists, but version 3.0 lets you search for one, then shows you all the playlists with songs by that artist. Even better, when you choose one of those playlists, Songza reorganizes it so your fave's song plays first.

Finally, app navigation has improved considerably. Gone is the Instagram-style five-icon toolbar; in its place are simple menus that slide in from the left or right. The app not only looks a cleaner, but it operates a lot more easily.

I have no idea how Songza can continue to exist without commercials, but I'm not complaining. The app itself has banner ads, and I have to think at some point the developers will impose a subscription model for commercial-free listening.

For now, however, Songza is free -- and even more fabulous. To my thinking, there's no better music-streaming app.

 

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