The Music App (formerly known as the iPod App) brought iOS music-navigation to a new place. No longer were we constrained to click wheels and Apple took full advantage of it. Cover Flow is still one of the most gorgeous ways to flip through your music, and the app is stuffed with features without feeling unwieldy. Want to buy a song? That’s just a quick button press away. Want to reorder your dock? That’s possible with a quick Edit tap.
But sometimes even great things need a little sprucing up—and in the time the Music app has been around it has undergone relatively few performance tweaks. Meanwhile apps are popping up that threaten to do what Music does, but better. Do any of them succeed? Here are the alternate iPad music player.
Play By AOL Music For iPhone
PLAY is the social Music app. You can log in using Facebook or create a PLAY account, then update your feed to show you what your friends are playing. The app is busy, but not exactly cluttered. Either way, it’ll definitely take a long time to get used to the layout. But once you figure it out, it’s smooth sailing as you jump from free album to free album stream, harvesting the plethora of Aol jams that are available at any given time. When that gets old, you can play local music with the tap of a button. PLAY is also the only app on this list (besides Music) has AirPlay functionality. That means you can listen to all of Aol’s music on your computer or AirPlay-enabled speakers.
But there’s more to PLAY than music, and you can follow friends, leave comments, like posts, and tag friends too. All the while the music you’re listening to scrolls across a banner at the very bottom. Sure, there’s a lot going on, but PLAY has got the right stuff, and it’s pretty clearly more engaging than Apple’s stock music client.
Spotify For iPhone
Our favorite subscription-based music streamer has an awfully lot tucked into its iPhone app. Last.fm scrobbling, a news tab, and an ultra-easy playlist finder. Getting on a plane? No problem. Spotify allows you to make just about every song in your playlists available for off-line play (whether you own them or not) and adding local files is a snap.
The user interface can be a bit difficult to understand, and it’s definitely utilitarian; except for the News tab there’s not a picture to be found, of album art or otherwise, and there’s no cover flow-esque landscape view in sight. But if you can get past the clunky interface, you’ll never use the Music app again. But then again, as with all good things there’s a catch. You’ll need a $10/month Spotify subscription to take advantage of all of its awesome features. But don’t fret, once you go green you’ll never go back.
RDIO For iPad
Besides the music app that comes loaded on your iOS device, Rdio is the only fully optimized iPad app on this list, and we actually really like it. But that’s not the only reason Spotify’s main competitor makes the list-the Rdio iPhone app Is just plain better than Spotify’s.
Whereas Spotify utilizes lists, Rdio is more about familiar iOS stylings. Opening the app for the first time reveals a familiar grid that’s both easier to navigate and look at than anything in Spotify or the Music app. Furthermore, Rdio takes Spotify’s social to a new level, placing an icon in the grid that shows you what your friends are listening to. It’s so simple to use, it alone could validate a switch from Spotify users. You’ll still need that $10/month plan, but it’s definitely worth it.
SoundCloud For iPad
SoundCloud isn’t in direct competition with the iOS Music app, but music lovers will want it anyway. Whether you’re trying to make it big as an artist, or just find neat tracks from independents (and sometimes mainstream artists), SoundCloud offers more than you’d expect.
The SoundCloud app comes loaded with just about every feature you can find on SoundCloud.com, but it also has a huge button to record your music or sound. Just like that, in app, you can share your live music. If creation isn’t really your thing, you can search for awesome musicians, follow them, like or comment on their tracks, and help them make it big.
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