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Tag Archives: Music

Background Info

Internet radio is a hot subject these days. Most people love the idea of services like Pandora and Last.fm willing to provide users with customized radio, free of charge. A relative newcomer to the field is Slacker Radio, which just recently launched its own iPhone application.

Preliminary Summary

Slacker is essentially a mix between the Last.fm and Pandora methods of music discovery. Lets be clear, it does not identify similar music with a “sound” algorithm and instead creates matches through related artists of the same time period. The program constantly provided music that I enjoyed provided that I imputed a song or artist that I wanted to hear more of. However, Slacker has another major advantage to many of the other services, professionally programmed stations. Instead of being like the computerized genre stations that Pandora employs, these stations have much more variety and are generally more interesting since real humans choose the tracks in advance. Slacker has a huge variety of these stations, from dance to rap to country… and even two comedy channels (one clean/one explicit)!

Beautiful album art view of the current playing song...

Beautiful album art view of the current playing song...

Sliding a finger over the art will give a "peek" of the next album in the lineup...

Sliding a finger over the art will give a "peek" of the next album in the lineup...

Sliding over the halfway point will automatically switch to the new track and reveal its name.

Sliding over the halfway point will automatically switch to the new track and reveal its name.

First Impressions

Slacker itself has a very clear music interface as illustrated in the screenshots above. It employs a peek system where the album art for the next song is visible, which is a treat for the eyes and fits the application beautifully. The initial menus are slightly slow to load the channel art but is generally responsive and easy to use. However, the most interesting feature in regards to channel selection is the search. This enables the user to choose any artist or specific song to base a custom channel around. Furthermore, by clicking the small arrow next to the channel name, these custom channels can be “fine tuned” in order to change the popularity of songs, the frequency of favorites, and their approximate year of release. This adds a new dimension to music discovery and is a welcome addition compared to Pandora.

In Depth

In simplest terms, Slacker’s performance is very, very good. Although I do not have an iPhone 3G, I was able to test Slacker on my original iPhone on both EDGE and Wifi connections. Wifi, as expected, did not cause any stuttering or stopping at all, and the music quality was very defined and clear. EDGE also performed extremely well, with only occasional drop outs that occurred when my iPhone signal strength deteriorated to about 2 bars. I have not had enough time to make direct comparisons between Wifi and EDGE quality, but there is little to no difference between them, which is a good thing! To add to your enjoyment of these great sounding channels, Slacker regular service allows 6 skips of songs per hour for each channel. This is more than enough if you have made a good channel, however Slacker provides a $3.99 Plus service which adds unlimited skips and “song requests,” which are a way to listen to any song you want within the next few songs on the channel by clicking the heart button. However, as far as I know, requests only work on the web client and not on the iPhone. I am currently testing the Plus service this month and will report back to post my experiences.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Slacker may be the best music discovery, or shall we say music enjoyment, application on the App Store. It is similar to Pandora Radio in many ways, but has a few major benefits. Overall however, it is personal preference which service you prefer more.

9/10