Rdio Launches an All-New Android App

Way back in July of last year, Rdio was the first of the streaming services to debut a native iPad app. Since then, they've continued to build their mobile offerings, and today they've debuted a completely revamped Android application, mirroring most of the functionality of their desktop and browser-based interfaces in a pocket-friendly package. And it'll even run under Ice Cream Sandwich.

I got to spend some time over the weekend playing around with a preview version of the new app (a free download, bur requires a $9.99/month Premium subscription for continued use), and we'll go out on a limb and say that if you're an Android-owning Rdio fan (or perhaps any sort of streaming-music contrarian) you'll likely be pleased with the new version. It's compatible with Android builds from 2.1 up to and including ICS, so you cutting-edge folks should be happy with it as well.

The previous incarnation of Rdio for Android was a bare-bones affair, and this build introduces most of what makes the service fun to use on the desktop. I was most pleased to find that Collections are now accessible on the go (rather than relying solely on a "playlist" organizational metaphor like its competitor services, Rdio lets you bookmark albums in its library; giving you quick access to what amounts to an old-school record collection). This is convenient when using offline Sync - you can (well, Premium subscribers can) freely sync tracks for offline mobile playback - since it cuts down a bit on the advance planning you'll want to do if you're interested in taking a chunk of Rdio's 12+ million song library with you to your favorite off-grid location.

Also new in the mobile app are the surprisingly deep new-release charts (Rdio's especially nice in this respect, maintaining a far more extensive list of indie and obscure titles appearing each week). Recommendations (based on your listening history, and pretty well targeted, in my experience) are now available, along with a rolling list of what your social connections are listening to (which I find far more useful than Spotify's Feed). It's a very complete collection of features and certainly comparable with the offerings from the other major services. Search works well, and quickly, and having access to your personal listening history is a nice touch, especially if your memory's a bit addled for whatever reason.

Overall functionality over Wi-Fi and 4G is about on par with the Spotify Android app - Rdio's a bit more stable than Spotify (at least on the HTC device I tested with), though tracks load a bit more slowly. It's a solid piece of Android coding, so far as I can tell.

There are, of course, a few areas where improvements would be welcome. Once you've begun playing an album, there's no simple way to click back through to an artist's homepage - returning to a list of other available albums and tracks requires heading all the way back to the homepage. I'd love to be able to click back to artist info via the artist's name (a la Spotify) wherever I found myself in the app. Perhaps licensing and patent issues prevent other services from adopting this interface element, but it'd be nice to see a creative equivalent. Also, as is the case in the Rdio iPad app we examined, it's not possible to view network activity for a particular track or album - a really nice social discovery feature that's present in the desktop version of the app, and would be particularly useful in the more click-challenged mobile environment.

But these are small points. As I said above, if you're an Rdio subscriber, there's no reason not to upgrade - you'll appreciate the more desktop-like functionality. And if you've been considering Rdio, the app comes with a 7-day trial subscription, so there's no reason not to give it a fair shake.