When it comes to streaming subscription services, Spotify has stolen the spotlight in the US, where companies like Rdio have struggled to get the attention and acclaim they used to enjoy back before the Swedish invasion. With Xbox Music looming on the horizon, promising to install 30 million free, ad-supported tracks into every computer running Windows 8, the market has never been more competitive. Which makes Rdio's newly announced overhaul to its Android app all the more timely. It's even better that it looks fantastic.

Old Versus New

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The old version of Rdio that current users have.

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The slick new look.

Keeping up with streaming music subscriptions is a pain, as each one iterates a couple times a year or more, so before we give you an overview of the new UI (a full review will be coming later), here's a glimpse at the current version on the Play Store right now compared to the overall look of the new one. The old UI is clean enough, though it still uses an archaic and clumsy grid of icons home page for the app. While there are no hard and fast rules for how to design an app these days, the preference has been to use gestures to navigate elements wherever possible (such as in the Play Store, swiping between categories of apps). However, there's another growing trend in app navigation that makes an appearance here to join countless others:

Sidebar: The New Hotness

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Yes, Rdio is joining the ranks of the sidebar navigation crew and it's wonderful. Well, mostly. Thankfully, like Spotify, a swiping gesture can reveal the sidebar for quick and easy navigation. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work in all areas. We can likely chalk this up to it being a beta, since it makes very little sense to intentionally allow the action in a playlist, but not in the Now Playing screen. We'll allow some space for things to change before the final version. But, of course, keeping up with what others are doing isn't enough. Rdio needs some innovation to really take the lead from Spotify. Enter...

Remote Control Mode

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I have used virtually every music streaming service under the sun for at least a couple months as my daily driver and given money to each. This, by far, is the coolest feature I've seen on any of them yet. When you start playing a song on one device, the others will become a remote control for it. You can pause, skip tracks, search for new ones, and swap between modes like shuffle and loop all from your mobile device. Or vice versa. I even tried it with my desktop, phone, and tablet all open and I could use both of my mobile devices to pause my desktop. The reaction was nearly instant.

Once a session has started, though, all the action takes place on whatever device is playing music until you instruct Rdio to switch by pressing "Play Here Instead" on the unit you want to listen to music on. It's a clever scheme that makes it stupidly easy to change from one listening situation to another.

Rather sneakily, this also has the added benefit (or restriction?) of making it impossible to use one account on more than one device at a time. This will surely please record labels and upset people who like to share music accounts. Not that this isn't the case already, anyway. For example, on Spotify, if you're listening to music on your desktop and a mobile device starts playing via the same account, desktop playback will cease. At least this way it feels less like an arbitrary restriction obviously tied to licensing deals and more like a feature. That's how you compromise.

And More...

As I said earlier, I'll be doing a full review of this app later this week, but if these initial impressions are any indication, it's looking to be a solid update. I'll also be examining Rdio against other streaming services who have had major updates in recent months including Rhapsody and Spotify in the near future. As I mentioned before, this is an intense time for music subscriptions and there's a lot on the line as each one of these companies vies for the next generation of music revenue, battling iTunes from all sides.

Stay tuned.

Source: Rdio

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • Danny Holyoake

    In your comparison post, be sure to talk about Gapless Playback.

    It's something Apple has right, it's something Spotify has right (yes, even on Android). Even Google can't get it right. And before you ask; yes, people *do* care about gapless playback. Some of us do, any way...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      Gapless playback is certainly something that matters to some people, and when I noticed that Spotify had finally gotten it right, I was ecstatic. I'm positive there will be a mention.

      That being said, if the biggest annoyance in a person's life is they have to wait a second for the next track, out of a library of literally millions, all available for the paltry price of $10 a month (in some cases), I think we're doing pretty good. Gapless playback is certainly nice, but it is not even remotely a huge deal and I probably would not take any substantial points off of a service that failed to provide it.

      • Dan Motif

        It's not about waiting, it's about the tracks of an album generally flowing together. Listening to an album like Dark Side of the Moon sucks without gapless playback.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

          As I said before, I was super excited when I saw that it was there. I know the value of gapless playback and I, too, find it mildly irritating when it's absent. But I stand by my words, I don't think it's the worst thing in the world. When the big comparison article comes, I will make sure to mention it, but I'm still of the opinion that a minor disruption in flow on a service that is otherwise amazing isn't a tragedy.

        • thistimearound

          I get your point Dan, but that's literally not true. Listening to Dark Side of the Moon never sucks. Even if you have to wait hours between tracks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eatonjb Eaton J. Blumenstein

    Gapless would be nice, but i left spotify because of the lame updates that well, almost never happend, and when they did, they were worse then before. Rdio is by far not perfect, but they are dedicated to squashing bugs, and make little updates from time to time, just to know they are alive, and listening. so Rdio is my baby now, and I love it. only grip I wish I could save offline music to my external SD card without having to trick it by mounting the rdio folder to a place on the external SD. otherwise, I love it. works great! worth the $10.

  • Billy

    Tablet ui?

  • gullygossner

    I've been waiting for a 'remote control mode' on google music for quite sometime. May make Rdio worth taking the plunge, again.

  • skeeterfood

    The built in remote control feature is awesome! I've tried using Spotimote to control Spotify running on my HTPC, but it's still really flaky if it works at all. I haven't tried this on my HTPC yet, but it works great between my phone and Nexus 7. Oh and the play queue actually makes sense unlike Spotify.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Taylor/753698655 Robert Taylor

    It's awesome! WAAAAY better than the Spotify app (which is terrible).