I recently held an X-prize-like competition for any application that would stream a playlist of music to my iPhone. To win this prize, an app would have to pass the following strenuous task:
I would start the playlist streaming at home (where I have wifi), then put the iPhone in my shirt pocket while I walked to the coffee shop (through zones of 3G and occasional Edge coverage) and then back home again. Throughout the walk the prize-winning app would need to keep playing my playlist.
In other words, to win the prize the continuously streaming music app would have to continuously stream music. Is that too much to ask?
The coveted award for the winner would be $10/month from my own personal bank account.
The contestants, culled from an elite worldwide list of entrants, were Rhapsody, Spotify, MOG, and Rdio.
- Rhapsody – Rhapsody was my favorite interface, so I really wanted this one to win and gave it a lot of chances to pass the test (more chances than any other). Unfortunately Rhapsody could stream no more than a few songs without hanging at some point (it would just stop, forever, at some random point within a song), and needed me to press “next song” to kick it into playing again. Sometimes it crashed. Some of the crashes were so bad that I had to reinstall the app.
- Spotify – Spotify would often get stuck at the beginning of songs. Like Rhapsody I’d have to press the “next song” button to kick-start it into playing again. With all its funding, Spotify is far from the underdog that Rhapsody is so I didn’t give it as many chances. Also, I was annoyed at Spotify for bugging my Facebook friends, so I gave it only two chances to survive the walk-to-the-coffee-shop test.
- MOG – Even the MOG web page got stuck in songs while I was setting up the playlist, and I really hated the drag-and-drop method of creating the playlist (my palsied hands just can’t do such fine motor control). So MOG didn’t make it to the iphone test. Sorry, MOG. You coulda been a contender.
- Rdio – Rdio passed the test! I tried it a few times, and Rdio always kept on playing. The worst case was when I walked into a grocery store with zero cell signal, and for a couple of minutes Rdio did pause until I got back outside where there was a weak Edge signal, but Rdio never gave up and it never hung and I never had to interact with it to kick-start it into playing again—Rdio just kept on keeping on.
Congratulations, Rdio, from my tests it appears you’re the only continuously streaming music player that actually continuously streams music. Those other apps seriously should be ashamed. The $10/month prize belongs to Rdio (my check is in the mail).
Bonus For Techies Only: If you’re technically minded, and want to understand the fundamentals behind WHY those other applications don’t work in the real world, it’s because most developers don’t develop in, and therefore don’t understand, the real world. I’ve been trying to understand the issue myself lately, and recently created the first version of a tool to help developers and QA solve the problem (see CrappyNet for a more-generic version of a tool that helped us solve streaming problems for RadioWeave). If you’re into this kind of thing please take a look at CrappyNet and give me some feedback. Thanks.