Editors' note: This review has been updated with new features from the latest version of Rdio for iOS released October 3, 2013.
Rdio for iOS is a subscription-based music service offering more than 18 million songs as well as added social components that let you connect with friends to share and discover new music, but it's not cheap. Still, with an updated version of the app for iOS, you may be swayed to sign up, with new streaming radio stations, a redesigned interface, and a cloud-based unified player that syncs your queue with your other devices.
Get started by downloading the free app, then sign up at the Rdio Web site for a 30-day free trial. As part of the Rdio community, you can share music with other members, add friends, and follow their music choices to find new music. You'll also be able to create unlimited playlists and share your playlists. This social component offers great possibilities for music discovery because you'll not only be able to listen to music and playlists from your friends, you also can explore chart toppers, and recent activity from other random users of the service.
The interface has been streamlined with an elegant gray-on-white control scheme that showcases the colors and art from artists' album covers. In the upper left you have a button for sliding out a menu of options to browse music in heavy rotation, recent activity (from other users), music in the top charts, and new releases. You also can view your personal collection (songs you've synced for offline listening), your history, your personal queue of songs to listen to, and your playlists. At the bottom of many of the screens, you also have the option to return to the playlist you're currently listening to.
Even though Rdio streams songs to you initially, what's great about the app is -- with a subscription -- you can sync your favorite songs to your device so you can listen to them even without a live Internet connection. Unsynced songs remain in your collection, but you'll need get back online to listen.
The 30-day trial gives you a taste of all the features, but if you want to keep Rdio as your main music player, you'll need to pay $14.99 per month. That price is an incredible deal for what you get (if you listen to a lot of music), but it still might be cost-prohibitive to a lot of users because -- let's face it -- legal or not, there are still many people who are used to getting their music for free. Perhaps a slightly lower monthly subscription could win more music lovers over to Rdio. It's hard to say, but it's definitely a service worth looking into even if it's just for the trial.
New radio streaming features
The latest version of Rdio gives you features that are useful even if you decide not to sign up for a subscription. Now, like many other music streaming services, Rdio offers free streaming radio stations. You can now create a station of your own based on an artist or song, or you can listen to one of many Rdio-curated stations. The app also will track your listening patterns and favorited songs to give you a personalized station of music you'll probably like.
One new addition with the radio station features is something not found in other apps. With Rdio, if you find or create a station that your friends might like, you can share it to Facebook or Twitter, or share it directly with a friend who is also an Rdio subscriber. The streaming-radio features were a much-needed addition for Rdio because with its slightly higher subscription price, people were probably passing over Rdio for other services. With the streaming-radio features, more people might recognize that Rdio has a great interface, excellent music discovery, and is a worthy option in a crowded music app genre.
With a redesigned and intuitive new interface along with streaming radio and useful features for searching, discovering, and syncing music, Rdio might make its way onto more people's iOS devices. But even with unlimited songs, the ability to save songs to your phone for offline listening, and playlist creation, the $14.99/month price tag may be a barrier for some users. Still, if you love music -- and don't want to pay for it piece by piece -- Rdio is a great subscription-based alternative.