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Shazam for iOS review: A must-download for music fans

The Shazam app is still a great way to identify an unknown song quickly, and with a new look and more ways to interact with tags, it remains one of the best for entertainment identification and discovery.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
3 min read

Shazam was one of the first apps for iOS that could recognize music and other media around you by "listening" and then displaying the song on your screen with options to buy. And even after all this time, it's still one of the best around.


Shazam for iOS

The Good

<b>Shazam</b> identifies songs, television shows, and commercials almost flawlessly. It has neat features for music discovery and lets you see how your friends and the rest of the world are using the app.

The Bad

The app still can't recognize singing or humming, which is something competitors already have.

The Bottom Line

With new features and a redesigned interface, Shazam is a top app for music identification and discovery.

When it debuted, Shazam was a neat way to show off what a smartphone could do, but it has since evolved to give you much more information about the songs and other media the app recognizes.

Even better, the app continues to improve with each update, and Shazam says there's more to come in the weeks ahead. Check back to learn what Shazam has in store for the app when the promised features become available.

A new look and more features makes Shazam even better (pictures)

See all photos

Getting around in Shazam
Upon launch you'll see the main screen, where you can tag a song by hitting the Shazam button in the center of the screen. The design has gotten a facelift since earlier versions, and looks much more streamlined with a deep blue background and flattened interface elements. Across the bottom of the interface are buttons to get to the different features of the app.

A Tags button lets you browse through all your previously tagged songs and other media. The News button shows what your friends have tagged (if you login with Facebook) recently. The Explore button gives you a map interface where you can see what people around the world are tagging. In the lower right, a button labeled Pulse gets you to an area with multiple screens you can browse by swiping to see what's hot on Shazam and other most popular lists.

Identify music, shows, and commercials
Shazam's main function is "tagging" or recognizing media it can hear though your iPhone's microphone. When you hear a song playing you don't recognize, you can touch the Shazam button in the bottom center of your screen and the app will "listen," then display the name of the song on your screen along with album art, buying information, and a list of things you can do with your tagged song.

The list of options is extensive, letting you listen on Spotify or Rdio, watch related videos on YouTube, preview or buy the song on iTunes, look at artist info, and even sing along with lyrics. There are also sharing options for posting it to Twitter and Facebook, or you can send via e-mail, Messages, WhatsApp, and Google+. In other words, when I said extensive, I meant it.

The app also has the option to listen for music, television shows, and commercials automatically, even when the app is turned off. By hitting a switch in the upper right corner, the app will continue listening and log what it hears so you can come back to it later. This is a great feature if you're listening to a good segment of music on the radio, for example, because you'll know that every song has been catalogued so you can buy them at a later time.

Shazam also works with supported television shows and commercials. With some shows, you can hit the tag button, and get more information about what you're watching. Commercials will bring up the product being advertised and give you options for buying, along with any current deals.

The only thing Shazam doesn't do as well as competitors like SoundHound is identify songs that you hum or sing. While it's not a huge problem, it's one of the few areas in which Shazam is not as good as other apps in the genre.

Final thoughts
Shazam is one of the old standbys in the App Store that long ago made its name by identifying the music around you. But with several updates over the years, the app has become like a hub for entertainment in general, and with the redesigned interface, is much more pleasant to use.

In revisiting Shazam in this latest update, it's amazing to see the amount of useful new features that have been added to the app. Though we don't know what's in store for the app with the promised update in the next few weeks, it has already made significant moves from being just a song identifier, to more of an overall entertainment hub.


Shazam for iOS

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 8Interface 8Performance 9