Over the last few days I’ve been testing a new version of the Rhapsody app for the iPhone. First seen at SXSW, the app has a new killer feature. In addition to streaming the catalog of 9+ million tunes, the new version now enables playlists to be saved for offline playback (as much as I love to use Rhapsody in the car, I still hit too many dead spots that cause the stream to drop.) It’s a great feature and it works extremely well, it was nice putting together a good long playlist for the plane ride home last week. You simply designate what playlists you want offline and the app does the rest. (It’s playlist only for now, no ability yet to just tag albums or songs for offline use, not a big deal IMHO but worth noting.)
Combined with the new $10 per month plan Rhapsody has a very compelling story for subscription music services. (I’ve also tested it on the iPad as well, it works well but as expected is somewhat pixilated). Of course, the logical next step would be background playback but the folks at Rhapsody tell me that’s coming in an iPhone OS 4.0 version.
One challenge Rhapsody has had in the past is it simply wasn’t compatible with the devices consumers wanted to use for music consumption, namely the iPod. The reality is it’s devices that drive services and stores. With Rhapsody now on both the iPhone and Android platforms, that’s not nearly the issue that it once was. The challenge for Rhapsody now is to explain the value of subscription services and how the subscription model can co-exist with the music already owned by the consumers, we just might see the service go from music aficionado-oriented users to mainstream success.