Spotify and Rdio: There and back again

April 2, 2013

Spotify and Rdio: There and back again

April 2, 2013

Last year, after I got tired of manually syncing my music collection through iTunes, I decided to bite the bullet and give Spotify Premium a shot. At the time, I was aware of Rdio as a service, but didn’t give it a second thought.

My first impression of Spotify was that the desktop app looked uncannily similar to iTunes, while the mobile app was unremarkable. But it worked, and it worked well. After a while, several user experience qualms gnawed at me. There was no simple way to listen to just an album.

There was also the matter of local file support. It often entangled metadata for songs that weren’t in its library. Even when I asked it to ignore external metadata for a particular song, it would continue to mix it up anyway.

Spotify has also yet to add retina (Hi-DPI) display support.

Last month, I was sufficiently dissatisfied with the service that I decided to give Rdio a chance.

Rdio was a breath of fresh air after traveling through a damp field of Spotify’s experience failures.

Rdio did so many things right, from marking individual tracks and albums for offline music to remote controlling your other Rdio devices. Navigating the interface was painless. Social discovery was unparalleled.

After a week of use, my friend and I noticed that Rdio’s mobile engineering was not up to par with Spotify’s. Upon encountering low bandwidth (or no signal), Rdio’s iOS app still attempted to access metadata from their servers. While Rdio’s UI degradation was for more graceful (Rdio doesn’t display playlists, songs, and features that require Internet access; Spotify just grays them out or displays a connection error screen), Spotify’s engineering is clearly superior to Rdio’s.

In the end, local file support is the deal breaker for me. I listen to many artists and tracks that aren’t on either service’s library, so Spotify’s local file support is crucial.

I am willing to use a sub-par experience in exchange for a more unified experience. I know someone who is willing to have to use separate programs in exchange for stronger, but separate, experiences. And that’s fine. “To each his own”.

Unfortunately, due to the way modern music business is done, I don’t see a future in which every EP, LP, B-Side, and remix will be on these services. It also means there will be no “magic bullet” streaming music service unless someone creates a truly global music archive.