John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Rhapsody for iPhone Gets Offline Listening

The stars may finally be aligning for subscription music on the iPhone. Early this morning, Rhapsody rolled out a new version of its iPhone app that solves a problem that has so far hamstrung digital music subscription services: you can’t listen to them without an Internet connection.

With Rhapsody’s new app you can. (see video of it in action below) The software caches music on the devices on which it runs — iPhones, iPod touches, iPads and soon Android and BlackBerry devices as well — so that subscribers can listen to it even without a live Internet connection. As product lead Jon Maples explains in a post to the company blog:

Here’s how it works: say you’ve built the perfect road-trip playlist (mine includes all of Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club, a bunch of Joe Strummer and Clash songs, plus a smattering of “Weird Al” Yankovic). Simply launch your Rhapsody app, open the playlist and click the Download icon. You’ll need either a 3G or WiFi connection to do this initially, but once the songs are saved to your device, you can rappel into the deepest crevices of the Grand Canyon and still be able to play them back.”

That’s something of a milestone for on-demand music streaming services. The inability to play music offline has been a nagging flaw in the music subscription model for years now and Rhapsody is the first venture to remedy it. Now that it’s done so and Apple (AAPL) has given streaming apps with offline caching its blessing, we may soon see a renaissance in subscription services as the market warms to the idea of paying a monthly fee for access to an unlimited library of music. This is a precedent, after all, and other streaming ventures like MOG and Spotify will be quick to follow it in the hopes of tapping into a very large channel of potential subscribers. But they best move quickly, because that channel won’t remain wide open for long now that Apple has acquired streaming music service Lala and is itself rumored to be working on a streaming version of iTunes.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik