Watch Out Pandora: Slacker Radio Updates iOS App For iPad And It’s A Game Changer:
- By: Slacker Radio
- Genre: music, online radio, music streaming, music discovery
- Platform: Universal
- Price: Free (additional features for subscribers)
- SAHGeekMom Rating: 5 Stars
- Recommended Age: All Ages
As busy as I am with the upcoming launch of apptudes.com (see our press release about the new site in iOS and Android reviews coming Father’s Day!) I haven’t abandoned my post at appadvice.com or my commitment to you, my loyal readers.
Slacker Radio has graciously agreed to be part of apptudes.com’s launch-week swag-a-thon (click here for just some of our amazing sponsors) so if you miss out on the appadvice giveaway, stay tuned or follow me on twitter @sahgeekmom for more chances to win coming soon.
It’s an alternative (a better one with 10 times the catalog), to App Store darling Pandora. If you have an iPad, it’s time to change your home page. Slacker Radio’s app is a must-have for music lovers.
I know Slacker well, because while Pandora is on every “what to download first for iPhone” list in the known world, its service is not available in Canada, but we do get Slacker. Since I knew their service having listened on my Mac and PC, I grabbed their app a week after I got my first iPhone.
But, when a friend who uses a US IP for work had me over, I was so excited to finally try out Pandora’s app.
To my surprise, the service (he is a paying member) and the app didn’t blow my mind. They are great, but I was suddenly happy that I had “picked” Slacker. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the border!
I will get into their services and subscription plans, and tell you how to win a year of premium service for free, but this is first and foremost an app review, so let’s start there.
Slacker’s bright shiny new iPad version is eye candy. It presents your music, in either orientation, using the iPad’s brilliant display and multi-touch interface to maximum advantage (since the iPhone GUI seems largely unaltered, the screenshots are from an iPad 2.)
In the “Now Playing” area (you can just pick a station and start listening) you have a neat cover flow display, which, depending on your subscription level (most people use this service for free) shows passed and upcoming track info.
You also get instant in-app access to artist bios, album information and lyrics, when allowed by the music distributor.
You can sit back and let any of the over 100 pre-programmed stations in popular genres like rock, alternative, pop, hip hop, indie, and country music get you grooving.
But, Slacker is not about a passive music experience, it is about customizing radio to suit you. Many services try, Slacker does it best, especially if you spring for the full premium package.
The app allows you to use most of Slacker’s mobile features minus a handy auto-caching option for Blackberry and Android, due to Apple’s (self-defeating) refusal to let enyone but Apple access hardware. Caching on iOS must be selected manually if you have the paid service and want to listen offline.
But, if Slacker Radio online does it, this app does too and in a way that will make you want to pop your iPad in a speaker dock and start rocking. Trust me, you’ll make your Apple-hating friends want an iPad 2, too.
Slacker has the pre-programmed channels in popular genres, including artist spotlights, and lots of ways to make your listening experience all your own for free.
And, you can access a DJ for some stations, and turn on news updates provided by ABC news, or listen to their dedicated station,with the entry-level “plus” subscription plan (which is a bit more than Pandora’s, at $3.99/month, but includes unlimited skips, the 10 million song catalogue etc.) or at their new “premium” service that comes with a premium price tag of $9.99 a month.
One account and subscription covers all devices: the existing iPhone app, this new iPad version, and it’s good on your computer, other mobile devices or you can even purchase a Slacker-specific portable unit.
The GUI is rich and intuitive; the app is a treat and not just for your ears. But, audiophiles report that if you listen with high-end headphones, Slacker’s sound quality is best in class.
Here’s a complete tour of the iPad version, also available in-app:
Slacker Radio, like their competitors in this field, know the bulk of their listeners aren’t going to pony up any cash.
Slacker, therefore, is available at no charge; you can still create custom stations (playlist creation, on-demand songs, and complete album playback are reserved for premium-members) and you can skip six songs per hour. That’s a huge plus, not offered by Pandora.
For free, you don’t get the bells and whistles, but you also don’t get slapped with a 40-hour per month listening cap. Check out the cool iPad 2 feature in the screenshot below.
You can take a picture from the iPad 2’s camera, and customize your station or playlist icon. Sweet! It’s great for easy navigation through everyone’s favorite playlist in your home.
Slacker is more than an online radio programmer. Their service, and their apps, are not just about listening. Slacker is all about music discovery.
My screenshots may belie my age, so I’ll admit that before I met Slacker (and kin), just a few years ago, my idea of “new” music was anything from the late 80’s or early ‘90s.
I am a die-hard classic rock lover, yet after 40 years of the same soundtrack, I was eager to find new artists. But, where does someone with long-established tastes begin looking for new music that won’t offend?
I started with The Grateful Dead and it immediately brought up (using a tag search I assume, but an advanced one) not only other classic rock artists, like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd, but also stations that feature The Dead, and newer jam-bands. (Who knew there was anything post-Phish!)
By looking at the suggested artists, it’s easy to rediscover names long forgotten, (Hot Tuna, anyone?) and when I moved seamless from classic rock to singer/songwriters a new world opened up.
While adding James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkle to favorites (you can pick favorite artists and songs so Slacker knows to play them more often, or ban specific songs and artists; Slacker adapts), I was, in moments, meeting Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, the Kings of Leon and others that may not be new to you, but to were to this geezer-geek.
Once you find new artists, they lead to others, and the next thing you know you are populating stations not only with your old standbys, but with fresh content, new to you anyway.
Slacker offers an amazing amount of configurability. You can fine tune most stations which is my favorite feature.
When listening to The Beatles I want to go fringe, I never need to hear Yesterday again, thanks. (It’s just overplayed, don’t hate me.)
But, I love finding old B-sides and obscure cuts from, say, a George Harrison solo album. When it comes to the Black Eyed Peas and Coldplay, however, I want hits.
What balance your stations strike is up to you. Pick new songs, or aim for older tracks, add more new artist discovery, or limit yourself to mostly your favorites. Slacker let’s you decide what you listen to, that’s the whole point.
The iPad version of the Slacker app is fantastic, the iPhone version could benefit from a landscape orientation, only, really, for easy alternation with a GPS app in the car, and I like the clean look on the iPad better, but it’s still slick and has all the same features, in a GUI intended for the smaller screen.
Slacker Radio’s free service is the best in class, with a huge catalog of songs and limited free skips. It has advertisements.
The “plus” service, $3.99/month, removes the adverts, gives you unlimited skips, caching for offline listening, optional news and lyrics.
The $9.99/month “premium” service can replace your iTunes app and mp3 collection, as well as your cloud service. It gives you everything in the “plus” package, and on-demand playback, lets you create playlists as you would in iTunes, and listen to albums played as they were meant to be heard, with the tracks in order.
All users can purchase the songs they like; a tap takes you right to iTunes. And, social media integration, via twitter and email, lets you share your custom stations and music tastes with the world.
No matter how you get your Slacker Radio, there’s is a must have app for iOS (and Android) music lovers.
Added: 6/3/11: Slacker Radio graciously put my review on their Facebook wall. And, when I went to check it out, I saw you can get a free month of premium membership and enter to win more year-long gift certificates too, click here for more details.
I’ll be back with a new app list and more reivews and sneak peeks at hot apps and games soon. In the mean time here is a post about my new app review venture, apptudes.com, and some of most recent reviews and most popular lists for you to check out:
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