Last March I wrote a preview post showing off Lala’s upcoming iPhone app, which gives users the ability to stream their entire music collection from the cloud, without having to worry about syncing their files. At the time Lala wasn’t ready to give a release date for the app, but our impression was that it was due out fairly soon. Obviously that wasn’t the case. But now we’ve gotten our hands on the latest version of Lala for the iPhone, which was just submitted to Apple for approval. And it’s safe to say that it was worth the wait.
For those that haven’t used Lala before, here’s a quick overview of the service: Lala revolves around the concept of the ‘web song’ — you’re allowed to listen to any song you want totally free exactly once. If you like it, you can then pay 10 cents for the right to stream it as many times as you’d like from then on. This means that you can ‘purchase’ and entire album for around a dollar. You can also use Lala’s Music Mover tool to upload your entire library of MP3s to the cloud free of charge. This is all built on top of a very slick interface, but so far it has come with one downside: because all of the songs are streamed, users didn’t have a way to access them when they weren’t at a computer. Lala’s iPhone app changes that.
The app will be familiar to anyone who has used the iPhone’s native iPod app. The big difference is that all of your songs are streamed from the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about syncing your songs. The app is also better for music discovery than the normal music app, because you don’t have to wait for songs to download — you can instantly add an album to your music library in one click. And it’s significantly cheaper.
Of course, streaming has its own problems. Normally if you’re disconnected from a streaming music service, your music goes dead. Fortunately the Lala app uses caching to store hundreds of songs from your library, which it has waiting in case your connection dies. Lala wouldn’t say exactly how many songs are saved, but they say that the app uses some intelligence to determine what gets cached (e.g. it will generally save songs you’ve most recently added to your library).
So what was the reason for the delay? Lala CEO Geoff Ralston says that “basically everything” had issues, from dealing with licensing from content owners to tweaking the app itself. Suffice to say, it works very well now, and is sure to be a hit among Lala users. It has good timing too: Lala just launched as one of the partners powering Google’s music search service, which is sure to drive a lot of traffic to the site.
Other music streaming apps coming for the iPhone include Spotify, though that isn’t out in the US.
Check out a video walkthrough of the app below.