Hands On Slacker 2.0 for iPhone (Caching!)


At long last, Slacker Radio 2.0 for iPhone is nearly here! Of course, the most notable and eagerly anticipated feature is the ability to cache stations for offline playback. Slacker’s updated app was submitted to Apple for review yesterday and, barring any show stoppers, should be available in iTunes in the next day or so.

Slacker 2.0 enables one to cache 25 stations, although it’s not yet clear to me how much music or disk space  (approximately) we’re talking about. I’ve only been in possession of the app about 12 hours, but I suspect I’d have more than enough content to cover my flights to and from Buffalo last weekend. Yet, will it get me through an 8 hour work day (from a perpetual AT&T dead zone)? We’re about to find out…

I didn’t precisely time the initial load, but over WiFi it took about 15 or 20 minutes to cache 6 stations. Given the iPhone’s background app limitations, there’s no scheduled station refreshes as seen on Android — so it’s a manually initiated process. Although the Slacker app will warn you when your cached content is running low.

It should come as no surprise that a killer feature like offline playback wouldn’t be part of Slacker’s freebie service. And indeed, station caching, along with unlimited skips and commercial-free music, is part of the Slacker Radio Plus package which runs $4/month. Which is really a no-brainer in my mind – and something I gladly pre-paid for a year of service a couple months back. However, the continued lack of Slacker on Sonos combined with Rhapsody’s recently lowered rates and offline caching has me playing the field.

7 thoughts on “Hands On Slacker 2.0 for iPhone (Caching!)”

  1. After the intro of iPhone OS 4.0 last month (or two ago) I thought Slacker would hold off till the official OS release to use some of the multitasking features but this is a welcome surprise. Hopefully this gets approved shortly, I’ve got a lot of traveling in non-3G areas coming up this week.

  2. You have to pay to cache some one else’s play list?
    I want something like Zune pass for my iphone so I can download and unlimited number of albums and have them with me all the time. The station/Play list caching sucks

  3. I just got my Android OS upgrade on the Eris (2.1, I believe), and the Slacker app appears a lot more stable. I need to do more testing, but so far it’s running far, far smoother than before. If it continues to work well, the offline capabilities do make it a killer app.

  4. Peter, true you can customize to your heart’s content using other services or buying tunes. However, I prefer the much wider variety of content something like Pandora and Slacker offer. There’s an element of music discovery I’m not going to get if I assemble all my own stuff. Additionally, Slacker’s “playlists” are tweakable – by year, more deeper cuts, etc. I’m also lazy and prefer having dozens of stations available on a whim without any programming of my own. Skipping songs I don’t like is as simple as a single tap.

    The closet you’ll find to Zune pass on the iPhone at the moment is Rhapsody ($10/mo). However, it’s currently only playlists that can be synchronized offline. Supposedly offline albums and individual songs are on the roadmap.

  5. Hmm, in the first screenshot you shot, the display (while playing) looks the same as the current version. Are there any new display options? I was hoping for a view closer to the andriod version.

  6. Dave, As a long time Slacker user (have owned both the G1 and G2 players, and am currently using the iPhone player), I can tell you that the chief limitation of the station caching feature has always been related to song licensing – simply put, there are many songs (most of their catalog, in fact) that Slacker is simply not allowed to offer for caching. These songs may only be played in direct streaming mode. This has always been a real pain, as you tend to get a lot of repetition on your custom playlists on the players, but not at all when streaming directly on PC or iPhone. Since they are now asking you to pay for caching (they didn’t on the players or on the BlackBerry app), have they stopped the restrictions? It would not really seem fair (or smart marketing on their side) to make you pay for what is actually less available content.

  7. Joe, I wasn’t aware of that. Good to know – in a bad way I guess. I’ll check in with my PR rep and see if he can shed any light on the licensing angle and possible subset of songs available for caching.

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