Today SoundCloud launched a completely redesigned app for iPhone that ditches its recording functionality in favor of making listening as fast and beautiful as possible. It's a huge update that finally brings SoundCloud up to date with its streaming music competitors — and with the demands of its customers. Two-thirds of SoundCloud listening now happens on mobile, the company says, up from half six months ago, yet for some time the company's app has felt dated. No more.
The new SoundCloud app is fast and fluid, focusing first on a stream of recently posted music by people you follow, and then on search. You can also access trending music inside the app for the first time, as well as SoundCloud's new Explore streams built around music genres like ambient, folk, and jazz. Every stream is ordered chronologically inside a slick, minimal interface that makes SoundCloud feel more than ever like a Twitter of music. The rumor goes that Twitter was recently considering an acquisition of SoundCloud, and with today's update, it's even clearer why Twitter might've been interested.
When you tap on a track, the app pops you into a unique, full-screen "now playing" view that turns your entire phone into a giant button. Tap anywhere and the music starts — tap again and it stops. To navigate between tracks, just swipe right or left on your screen. Swipe directly on a track's music waveform, however, and you can scrub back and forth inside it. SoundCloud's new player interface takes a little getting used to, but is overall a very handsome, lightweight experience unlike any other I've tried.
As nice as the new SoundCloud looks, it's missing several features that today's users have come to expect. The new app has no comments or buttons for seeing who has liked or reposted a song, and no feed of who has recently followed you. There's not even a Repeat button if you want to hear your new jam over and over. The app seems singularly focused on delivering a simpler, more personal listening experience instead of crowding the screen with annotations or buttons. Users will ultimately be the judge of whether SoundCloud made the right or wrong move here, but the company says that the changes it made were in response to user feedback. And of course, the company will likely address complaints in future app updates.
"The philosophy behind the app was really a simplified experience when it came to listening, finding content, and having a continuous listening experience," says Mustafa Sezgin, director of mobile engineering at SoundCloud. Let's hope SoundCloud's 250 million active users agree with the approach.