Streaming music startup Rdio continues its battle with Spotify, today updating its two flagship mobile applications for iOS and Android. The new apps have been redesigned with a cleaner layout, introduce new navigational elements, and add other clever features to enhance the user experience – like the ability to pick up playing a track from where you left off on another platform, for example.
The company has been making a number of moves in recent weeks to bring more artists to its platform, including last month’s launch of the “Rdio Artist Program,” and previously, integrations with independent music aggregators, CD Baby and TuneCore. But today’s updates are singularly aimed at bringing more users to the service by enhancing the overall mobile experience.
The new apps have been updated to more closely resemble the style of the Rdio website, which itself currently ascribes to that new “clean web” look and feel, involving lots of whitespace, simple typography, and careful use of color (album art provides the visual spark on the web). The iOS application, available now on iPhone and iPad, also goes for the same minimal look and introduces the now common navigational style involving a single screen app with navigation and settings tucked off to the left side. (This is what Facebook uses, for example.)
Here, the sidebar features various sections like Heavy Rotation, Recent Activity, Top Charts, New Releases, as well as providing access to users’ own music collection, their history, playlists and queue. At the bottom, below the settings, there’s a button to switch on Offline Mode, too.
Another new feature is the playback control mechanism at the bottom of the app’s main screen, which lets you quickly play the current track, or tap to launch the playback controls full-screen, with the album or playlist front-and-center, allowing you to choose other tracks, pause or skip tracks, and more. And something which Rdio is calling “Remote Control” will now notify you if Rdio was streaming elsewhere (like on your Mac or PC), and lets you tap “Play Here Instead” to pick up where you left off, which is handy. You can also use this to control Rdio on any other platform from your mobile (hence the name “remote control”).
Previously, the iOS and Android applications for Rdio offered a plainer user interface – arguably less modern – involving icons across the homescreen which you tapped to access the apps’ many sections. (See image on right for the old interface). Playback controls were basic as well, compared the richer functionality today’s update introduces. In addition, the company would upgrade one platform before the other, instead of offering concurrent updates, as it is doing today. This gave Android a chance to best iOS for a time, in terms of features and functionality.
Today, Rdio’s catalog of 18 million is the same size as Spotify’s worldwide catalog, also 18 million. But Spotify, with its social platform and deep Facebook integration, is still the more popular of the two services. Not coincidentally, Spotify is also planning to announce an overhauled following system like Twitter and browser-based version of its service. The company will host an event in a matter of days where it will announce major upgrades, says TechCrunch’s Josh Constine. And the company itself is wrapping a good year, with revenues that could reach $500 million by year-end.
Rdio, while now a more attractive mobile product, still has a way to go to catch up with that sort of momentum. Having launched two years after Spotify, Rdio remains ad-free, but paid – it doesn’t offer a freemium tier (only a free trial), while Spotify maintains a freemium offering. This model has likely contributed to slower adoption for Rdio.