Rhapsody was one of the first online services to offer on-demand streaming music during a time when Napster was rebranding itself as a pay service and iTunes was just beginning its rise to music market domination. Surprisingly, while their service predates many of the others with apps currently in the Android Market, Rhapsody is one of the latest to hit Android handsets, and it is probably for the better. The makers of the Rhapsody app obviously took some time to study the competition and improve on the streaming music interface.
Rhapsody offers its streaming music in two ways, through the creation of hand-crafted playlists or through a selection of pre-made radio stations based on popular artists and genres. The radio stations are pretty good, but if you are using Rhapsody I’m sure most of your listening will come from your custom playlists, and listening to music and creating playlists is quite easy. Search for an artist, album, or song (just be sure to check the correct selection next to the search dialog) and you will be presented with a list of results. Pick the one you want and you will have the option to listen or add music to your queue or playlist. A real convenient aspect of Rhapsody is the ability to add an entire album to your queue at once.
The selection of music was pretty wide, every artist I searched for had at least some music in Rhapsody’s library. However, some artist’s catalogs were outdated or did not feature all of their albums. Can’t be sure if this is due to licensing issues or if the music has just been neglected to be added, but enough new music was available to indicate they update their library quite frequently.
While Rhapsody does offer its own selection of pre-determined radio stations, it lacks the ability to generate intelligent playlists based around any artist or song you choose. This feature is almost a must-have for music streaming apps, so I am sure some will miss this functionality. If you have used the app for a while and built up a good library of music it shouldn’t be as much of an issue, but Rhapsody definitely felt lacking without this capability.
Sound quality is pretty good compared to some of the other streaming music options. Everything sounded clear, though the low-end may be lacking a bit (admittedly, low-end is usually one of the first frequencies to go when compressing audio). The app has many of the features you would come to expect, including artist and song info, the ability to purchase music directly through the app, and options to share songs (or playlists, albums, and artists) via messaging and e-mail. You can control repeat and random playback modes, but a bit of a peeve is the fact that you must navigate to the Settings menu to turn these options on and off.
Where Rhapsody excels is in its excellent interface. The song playback controls (play/pause/skip) are always located at the bottom of the screen when the app is open. This has the benefit of allowing you to start and stop or skip songs while adding music. No need to navigate to a “Now Playing” screen. You can however expand the playback controller to show album art, detailed artist info, and the track listing of the current playlist or queue. Playlist editing and rearranging is simple and accomplished through the use of long presses on a track in the list. Also present is the seemingly-standard for music apps “Now Playing” item in the notification bar.
Rhapsody has always been a subscription service, and with their Android app this hasn’t changed. Users who download the app now will be treated to a 7-day free trial, but after that it will cost you $9.99 a month.
- Excellent user interface with easy access to Now Playing controls
- Large selection of music for completely custom playlists or pre-made radio station listening
- Easy creation and arranging of playlists, including the ability to add entire albums with one press
- Great sound quality
- Some artist’s catalogs were outdated/did not include all of their music
- Available with a subscription only ($9.99/month)
- No custom artist or song-based intelligent playlists
The Bottom Line: Rhapsody does a lot of things right. I can’t say it is hands-down better than the other services available, but it does a good job of competing head to head with the best. The problem is that to get something equal to or only marginally better, you will have to pay $9.99 a month, whereas the standard for most other similar services is right around $4 a month. Rhapsody does a great job if you love creating your playlists song by song, but if you are looking for an app that does intelligent playlist streaming based on one artist or song, you will probably want to look elsewhere.
This article is part of a series on music streaming apps for Android. Each day I will be reviewing a different streaming app to help separate the must-have music players from the rest.
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