With Spotify recently launching a web player in beta, a place where Rdio’s long held the upper hand, the subscription music world is heating up again. Today, Rdio is launching a full redesign of its iOS app — and finally pushing the Android beta into the Google Play store— and it’s one the best subscription music mobile apps we’ve seen on any platform. We got a chance to check out the new iOS app on iPhone, but it's also now available for iPad.
While there aren’t many new features here (we’ll get to those later), the new app is primarily a massive visual redesign. It favors a flatter look over the last version’s old glossy, gradient-heavy, button-oriented styling. Regular Rdio users will notice similarities with the web redesign the service launched back in June (and has been updating ever since), and it’s also very close to the Android beta app. The mobile app changes aren’t just for show — the subdued UI elements more effectively emphasize album art.
Rdio’s also removed the old grid-based navigation, and replaced it with a sidebar accessible from anywhere in the app — just swipe right from nearly anywhere to reveal it. It’s an increasingly common UI choice that we’ve seen before in apps like Facebook and Path, and it works well here to list all of your playlists, settings, and syncing options. Flip to offline mode, and you’ll only see playlists that you’ve synced with your device. Instead of tapping endlessly through menus, you can now get to offline mode or force syncing with just two or three taps from anywhere in the Rdio app.
The mobile queue’s functionality has been beefed up, and now syncs with your online queue (a feature that’s long been missing). From your computer, you can now load up several albums and playlists on your queue, and the iOS app will now bring up that very same queue. I tested on both an iPhone 4 and 5, and the app feels faster across the board, especially when in offline mode. Building a quick queue or new playlist is a smoother process than it’s ever been. There's also a new remote control feature, which works, but is a little clunky in practice. If you're playing tracks on your computer, you can control playback with your phone (and vice versa).
Among iOS based subscription music streaming apps, this is certainly the best-looking and easiest to use, but it’s still a hard sell if you’ve already committed to Spotify or Mog’s ecosystem with years of your listening data, personal playlists, and friends. Still, it’s a welcome upgrade, and the constant iterative updates show a mature app that balances your own collection and playlists with music discovery via your contacts, top charts, and regularly updated new releases.