iOS

New personalizable web radio service the "central feature" of Spotify's iPhone, iPad apps

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 11:00am

Spotify Radio on iPhones

A coming update to Spotify's iPhone and iPad apps will include customizable streaming radio, available even to free users (previously Spotify's mobile app was completely off-limits to free users). Observers say the move makes Spotify "more directly competitive with online radio leader Pandora," as Billboard writes.

The new streaming radio service -- now "the central feature of the mobile app," according to Spotify product manager Donovan Sung -- lets users create stations from songs, playlists, albums, artists or their friends' musical tastes. Users can save tracks for on-demand listening later and customize the stream with thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons.

Spotify quoteInterestingly -- reportedly unlike Spotify's earlier radio product (more here) -- the new radio streams are "DMCA compliant," reports All Things Digital, meaning "Spotify doesn't need permission from music owners in order to roll it out. It also means the streams are "cheaper to operate" for Spotify, writes Bloomberg, "because royalty rates are lower" than direct deals. The streams also include advertising (like Spotify's free desktop offering).

The iOS update will arrive "in the next few days," Spotify told Engadget. An Android version may be coming later this year.

"We feel like the radio experience of just hitting play, leaning back and not controlling exactly what plays is core to a great music experience,” Charlie Hellman, Spotify VP of product, told Bloomberg.

We first caught wind of Spotify's plans to create a Pandora-like Internet radio service in April (RAIN coverage here).  On-demand competitor Rdio is also reportedly working on a Pandora-like web radio offering (RAIN coverage here).

Peter Kafka argues in All Things Digital that this is bad news for Pandora. "A lot of people confuse Spotify’s streaming music service with Pandora’s streaming music service. Now they’re going to be a lot more confused." That's "a problem for Pandora."

He continues, "Spotify now has a chance to expose many more people to its product, in the hopes of eventually converting some of them to paid subscribers. And Pandora, which has consistently argued that it hasn’t seen any impact from Spotify’s U.S. launch last summer, may no longer be able to say that."

You can find more coverage from All Things Digital here, Bloomberg here, Engadget here, The Verge here, Boy Genius Report here and Billboard here.

Update to ESPN Radio iPhone app brings healthy dose of new features, iPad-only version

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 12:20pm

ESPN Radio iPhone appAs announced at RAIN Summit West 2012, ESPN Radio today updated its iOS mobile apps with new features, including the ability to rewind up to an hour of live programming on some ESPN stations.

The app also offers the ability to create custom sports radio stations, of a sort. Users can enter in up to 5 keywords (like "Chicago Cubs" or "Patrick Kane"), and the app will automatically offer up related shows, podcasts and other content.

Other updates include improved sound quality, faster connections and notifications about ESPN Radio programs. Users can also now cache stations for offline listening, as well as shows, podcasts and other on-demand content.

The update includes a new iPad-only version of the app. The new ESPN Radio app is free, but after 14 days listening to live streams and the custom "My Stations" feature costs $5 to use.

In our experience, it took quite a while to just sign up for an account on ESPN Radio -- a necessary step before getting to any content. After several errors and a reboot of our device, we finally were able to listen to some radio. From there things were smooth sailing. The app is jam-packed with content and various ways to quickly find audio that interests you, whether you're looking for local info or content about specific teams or players.

You can find the app from the iTunes Store here. All Things Digital has more coverage here.

ESPN Radio SVP/Production & Business Divisions Traug Keller revealed details of this app update at RAIN Summit West 2012 in April (RAIN coverage here).

ESPN says their Android mobile app will be updated in June and an app for Windows Phone will arrive in summer. The company also says their app has been downloaded 740,000 times since launching more than two years ago.

More than half of mobile users in U.S. own a smartphone, finds Nielsen

Monday, May 7, 2012 - 11:35am

SmartphonesWell we knew this milestone was coming (RAIN coverage here) and now it's arrived. Nielsen says 50.4% of mobile users in the U.S. own a smartphone, "making dumbphones the minority for the first time," writes Engadget.

So now a (slim) majority of cellphone-toting folks in the U.S. potentially have the ability to stream Internet radio on the go. Indeed, the smartphone market is pretty much divided between the app-friendly platforms of Google's Android (claiming 48.5% of smartphone users) and Apple's iOS (32%). "Other platforms trailed well behind," reports Engadget, which has more coverage here.

RAIN reviews Groove 2 and its endlessly interesting mixes of your own music

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 11:10am

Groove 2Over the past few days, I've found myself listening to less radio and more of my own music collection via my iPod Touch. Not because I'm in the mood for a single artist or album, but becuase I've discovered an app that essentially turns my music collection into a captivating radio station.

The app is called Groove 2. It works by analyzing the music stored on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and then offering an endless range of music mixes:

  • Mixes of music based on an artist, song or genre
  • "Three of a Kind" mixes that play a series of artists, 3 songs at a time
  • "Better Together" mixes that match two complementary artists
  • "Favorites" that play just music you've listened to frequently

The result is, for all intents and purposes, a mini radio station made up of my own music. As The Next Web writes, Groove 2 acts "just like your own personal DJ."

You can create your own mixes by picking artists and songs, but the real appeal of Groove 2 is that it generates a large, fascinating selection of mixes for you on the home screen. There's even a "Surprise Me" button that picks a random mix of music for you. It's a wonderful way to rediscover music you haven't listened to in a while, or maybe not at all. 

Groove 2 also pulls artist photos and bios from Last.fm, along with music tags to create music mixes. So this morning, for example, Groove 2 suggested I listen to a mix of "glo-fi" music. It turned out to be excellent, though I'd be hard-pressed to explain what "glo-fi" actually is. 

So now, when I'm not sure what I want to listen to, I find myself not opening Pandora or looking for a FM stream. Instead I open up Groove 2 and listen to my own music in a new way.

The app is normally $4 from the Apple App Store, but is temporarily discounted to $2. You can find it here and find more coverage from The Next Web here. -- MS

U.S. smartphone ownership closing in on 100 million, comScore reveals

Monday, February 6, 2012 - 11:00am

Last week comScore released its data on the U.S. mobile and smartphone market, details of which broadcasters and webcasters might find interesting. The study examined the final three months of 2011.

-- 234 million Americans (age 13+) used mobile devices.

-- Almost 98 million Americans owned smartphones in Q4 2011, which is 40% of all mobile subscribers.

-- Google Android remains the top U.S. smartphone platform, with a 47.3% market share. Apple iOS was second with just under 30%; RIM (Blackberry) slipped to 16%; Microsoft was under 5%; and Symbian (Nokia) was 1.4%.

-- Nearly 48% of U.S. mobile subscribers used apps, almost 24% listened to music on their phones.

Read more (including comScore's press release) from Engadget Mobile here.

Android and iOS shipments surpassed PCs in 2011

Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 11:25am

Android and iOS devices are "impossible to ignore," says analystAndroid and iOS devices (iPads, iPhones) had a higher combined shipment volume than the entire PC industry in 2011, according to mobile analyst Horace Dediu in Asymco.

A total of 358 million Android and iOS units were shipped last year, Dediu found (using data from the smartphone industry, Apple and Gartner), compared to 336 million PC units (excluding Macs).

"The growth rate and the scale itself combine to make the entrants impossible to ignore," comments Dediu (here). "We cannot consider the iPad as a 'niche'...it has a higher trajectory than the iPhone which became a disruptive force in itself."

These numbers are perhaps validation of earlier predictions made by analysts. In December 2011, a study from USC foresaw that "for the vast majority of Americans, the tablet will be the computer tool of choice by the middle of the decade, while the desktop PC fades away" (RAIN coverage here).

And in 2010, Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker predicted that smartphone sales would surpass those of PCs by 2012 (RAIN coverage here).

More recently, radio group heads told Inside Radio they would focus on the mobile experience in 2012. "Stations need to think of how their websites are built beyond the desktop browser," said Hubbard Radio VP of digital media Mark Preston (RAIN coverage here).

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