Rhapsody, the digital music service, has released an updated App for the iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone. It’s free to download but requires a subscription to use. The big deal here is that not only can you listen to your Rhapsody playlist while connected to the Internet, but you can also download individual songs to local storage. Yes, that means you’ll be able to listen to your favorite song—Rhapsody has a catalog of more than 9 million songs—while in areas without Internet access, such as the subways of New York. It marks the first time that Apple has allowed a third-party music subscription App to be able to download songs in the U.S. Yes, it’s a reasonably big deal.
Rhapsody has been around for a little while, but this is the biggest development I can think of in quite some time. The biggest knock against music subscription services on the iPhone is that, what happens when there’s no Wi-Fi, or you’re in a 3G dead zone? It doesn’t matter how large a music catalog is if you can access it whenever you want. That’s always been the iTunes Store’s saving grace—no, you can’t access every single song ever (within reason, of course), but you can always play U2 whenever you want.
As mentioned, this is the first time Apple has allowed such functionality in an App in the U.S. Europeans, of course, can access Spotify in an offline mode, but that’s not available in the U.S.
I suppose this is the next move for online music stores, offering an all-you-can-eat cloud-based service, while at the same time allowing you to download and take songs with you on your mobile device. Microsoft’s Zune MarketPlace does a similar thing, but you have to pay for each song you download. That is, downloading songs isn’t part of the standard subcription fee.
Rhapsody has two tiers of service of which to choose from, called Rhapsody Premier and Rhapsody Premier Plus (gotta love those names). The former costs $10 per month and includes access on one mobile device, while the latter costs $14.99 per month and allows access on three mobile devices (in addition to the standard desktop client, of course).