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Friday, July 17, 2009

Ranking the "Big 3" Music-Streaming Apps for iPhone

So long story short, I purchased my first iPhone recently after months of hesitation and self-debating. As you know, the iPhone comes with the option to install dozens of "apps" that open the device up to all sorts of things. As far as music goes, there are 3 big music apps for the iPhone, all of which are based off of popular websites: Pandora,, and iMeem.

I've been spending the last few days growing accustomed to each app in order to determine which works best for me. Below are my findings.


Pandora is easily the most popular music streaming app available for the iPhone today. A lot of that has to do with the success of its online counterpart (or the "Music Genome Project"). Pandora was one of the first internet radio sites that intelligently played music based off of artists or songs that you happen to enjoy. The app is no different in this regard. Simply start by entering the name of a band - say, "Modest Mouse" - and Pandora will work its magic from there. You have the option to rate a song "Thumbs Up" or "Thumbs Down." Ranking a song "Thumbs Down" not only will keep you from hearing that song again, but decreases the chance that you'll hear a song like that one as well. It is a very intelligent system, hence its popularity.

Intelligent streaming
Ability to bookmark songs for instant playback
"Purchase from iTunes" option
Can change audio quality from "Low" to "High"
"QuickMix" allows you to shuffle all stations.

Pop-up ads
Maximum of 6 song skips per hour
Sound quality, even at "High," is not the best
Cannot pick a specific song to play
iMeem is sort of the stepchild of the music-streaming services. Of the "Big 3," it is the least used, both on the iPhone and on the regular interwebs. Longtime readers know that I use iMeem to stream songs and playlists in some of my posts, so I am very familiar with the service and its limitations. Like Pandora, iMeem will create a playlist for you based off of an artist or song and allow you to rate artists or songs. Its system is not as intelligent as Pandora's, but it does work. iMeem also has featured stations on its front page (currently "Top 100," "Summertime Jams," "Discover," etc.). Where iMeem stands apart is its "My Music" section that allows you to play specific songs that you have uploaded to your iMeem profile on your computer. Granted, it is limited to what you upload, but if you had a lot of time on your hands you could free up a lot of space on your iPhone by moving a portion of your iTunes library to iMeem. It's an option; no more, no less.

"My Music" Section
Featured playlists
"Buy from iTunes" function

Pop-up ads
Maximum of 6 song skips per hour
Sound quality is weak sauce
Some lag in between songs

More often than not, I'm listening to my own personal music collection, not internet radio. is a great service because it intergrates both. For the unacquainted, begins with you installing a small file on your home computer. From here, this file will keep track of every song you listen to on iTunes, WinAmp, your iPod or Zune and then upload that information (called "scrobbling") to to keep an accurate account of what you're actually listening to. is also a social networking site too, so you can add friends and listen to their music library station as well. Like the other 2 apps, allows to play stations based off of your favorite artists (not songs). It also as a pre-made recommendation station that plays songs based on your song library and radio plays. Best of all, the app is like a mini version of the site: complete with friends list, events listings, graphical data on your listening trends, and more!

Integration with your full music library, not just your station plays
"Buy from iTunes" function
No pop-ups
No skip per hour limit (I skipped up to 15 without interference)
A fully-functional mobile version of the real thing
No lag in between songs
"My Library" allows to to create a station featuring only songs in your library.
Tells you if the artist you're listening to is on tour, and lets you browse dates.

Cannot pick specific songs to play
Audio quality is inconsistent


Conclusion: For me the choice is clear. offers the most options in a music streaming service, provided that you download the Scrobbler from the website and listen to music on your computer or iPod. If you're more of a CD person, you may find Pandora to be more to your liking. Really the only positive to iMeem is the ability to play specific songs that you have uploaded to the site. This is good if you have a collection of obscure artists that the other stations just wouldn't ever play. But as I said, if you really want the most-personalized and multi-faceted music-streaming app, I highly recommend

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