Music Subscription Apps
More than most categories, choosing the best music subscription app involves a high degree of subjectivity. The offerings by the top competitors each bring something different to the table. Some have bigger music catalogs; others are better at sharing; still others have the advantage in terms of music discovery. Services with the most dynamic features may not have the most user-friendly interface. Non-iOS considerations also come into play, as some of the services can stream on third party devices (such as Roku, Sonos, or Boxee), or in your car. Then, of course, are the cost considerations. Ultimately, the best music subscription service for you will depend on your personal preferences. This AppGuide merely highlights some things to look out for.
To listen to Mog on your mobile device, you will need the Mog Primo service, which costs $9.99/month. This is the same as most of the services mentioned on this AppGuide, although many of them (including Mog) also offer free desktop or web versions. Like most of the apps on this list, Mog boasts a large catalog of on-demand music (over 14 millions songs). What sets it apart for me is its Mog Radio feature, which is a superlative personal radio and music discovery implementation. By using a slider, you choose your perfect balance of songs by your chosen artist and similar artists. As a Roku Box owner, I also appreciated Mog's availability to stream from my television speakers. Mog is not perfect and may not be everyone's choice, but for me, it claims the top spot.
Before writing this AppGuide, I was a Spotify Premium member. I am still a big fan of Spotify. It may have the largest catalog of all the services, although it also has a few glaring omissions, such as the Grammy Award-winning "21," by Adele. In my opinion, its mobile app interface is the easiest to use. Syncing songs for offline use is quick and painless. It also has some advantages over Mog in that Mog does not yet have the ability to create playlists directly within the iPhone app. Also, Mog currently cannot import your iTunes music. Finally, I prefer Spotify's music sharing mechanism over Mog's. However, until Spotify improves its in-app discovery features, I give the slight edge to Mog.
Mog and Spotify do not currently have native iPad apps. Rdio does, which is a distinction. That will soon change, however, as iPad versions of those apps should soon be available. Rdio is definitely a quality service, but it lags slightly behind its competitors because its mobile interface is not quite as intuitive in operation. For example, instead of a simple swipe to delete a song from your library, you have to perform a couple extra taps. I personally like Spotify's app implementation more than Rdio's, but that may just be personal taste.
Slacker only has about 10 million songs compared to the 14-15 million of a Mog or Spotify. However, Slacker does claim to have more than 10 times as many songs as Pandora. It also has some distinct advantages over the top apps on this list. For example, Slacker has a free version, which works on mobile devices. It also features more than music, with comedy, news, and sports stations. A Slacker Premium membership adds on-demand music features to Slacker's Internet radio. These on-demand features are not as robust as those of other apps; I had to delve two to three levels into the menu just to delete a playlist. You also cannot scan through parts of a song. Overall though, Slacker has some nice features and the prospect of combining on-demand music with an excellent personal radio service may be enough to justify the $9.99/month cost of Slacker Premium for some.
Rhapsody has some good features and works well, but it feels somewhat dated compared to its competition. It chooses functionality over style, which isn't a bad thing. But its functionality isn't so much better than Mog, Spotify, Rdio, or Slacker, that I would choose it over them. Unlike its top competitors, Rhapsody also doesn't have a free web or desktop version. This limits who you can share your music with.
Pandora has a good free service. It also has a paid service called Pandora One. For a yearly fee of $36, you can remove ads, gain a desktop ad, and increase the number of skips you can make. Pandora One cannot compare to the above services, in terms of features or music selection. It is a lot cheaper though and may be good enough for some users.
SiriusXM Internet Radio
For those interested in Satellite Radio, SiriusXM is the service for you. Out of all the apps on this list, Sirius features the widest range of programming. In addition to commercial-free music, the service includes sports, talk shows, news, and more. Sirius XM is also more expensive than most of the apps on this list. Depending on your needs, SiriusXM may be just the service for you; its app is well-done and a good way to listen to your programs. However, since this AppGuide is focused on music, it's difficult to rank SiriusXM above any of the apps that preceded it. While SiriusXM does offer some fantastic music channels, it doesn't offer on-demand music. For the purposes of this AppGuide, I'd rather pay less money to get more music.