August 24, 2009

Rhapsody trys subscription music iPhone app

Rhapsody's iPhone app allows users to stream ad-free music and add selections to their playlist queue. (Credit: Rhapsody) Subscription music service Rhapsody (a division of Real Networks) have announced plans to port their service to Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch. The company's application (demonstrated on video below) is currently waiting on approval from Apple. Historically, Apple has steered clear of subscription music, making it impossible for services such as Napster or Rhapsody to work with the iPod, fearing competition with their own iTunes music service. But the success of iPhone music applications such as Pandora, Last.fm, and Slacker, may have opened the door for subscription services, as well. Also helping to soothe Apple's fears is the fact that Rhapsody's mobile app will require that users hold a Rhapsody-to-Go account, which currently runs $14.95 per month (non-subscribers will apparently be offered a limited time free-trial period). The Rhapsody app allows subscribers to explore and stream Rhapsody's entire online music catalog over EDGE, 3G or Wi-Fi, as well as create and store playlist queues of their favorite content. The app does not, however, allow users to download and store Rhapsody songs directly on the device, or cache content temporarily to hear offline.
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If Rhapsody's application is approved by Apple, it won't likely be alone. Competing services such as Spotify have shown off similar applications, and Napster will surely want to get in on the action, as well. The real question is whether people will find subscription music capabilities valuable. With free, ad-supported services such as Pandora already dominating the spotlight, it remains to be seen whether Rhapsody can convince new customers to spend close to $15 per month for unlimited on-demand music streaming. Rhapsody's press release also reveals plans to develop an Android application, which may or may not offer great flexibility (local storage, over the air downloads) than the version for iPhone.

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