Review: Rhapsody redesign takes on Apple Music and Spotify

Review: Rhapsody’s redesign takes on Apple Music and Spotify

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Rhapsody
The streaming music veteran takes a shot at becoming "hot stuff" with a total app overhaul.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Responding to the existential threat posed by Apple Music and Spotify, old-school streaming music service Rhapsody has completely overhauled its mobile app. The revamped Rhapsody comes with a fresh design and new features to take things up a notch — although some of these things look mighty familiar.

Will this redesign be enough to take on the newcomers that are eating Rhapsody’s lunch? Check out what Rhapsody brings to the table and see for yourself.

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Rhapsody takes a shot at mainstream relevance with a new look and features.
Photo: George Tinari/Cult of Mac

Rhapsody’s real problem right now is that it is the grandfather of streaming — it has years of wisdom and experience, but it’s not hip. Gaining the kind of cultural relevance that Apple Music enjoys is key to Rhapsody’s survival going forward.

I’ve been testing Rhapsody’s redesign for a while, and it’s probably no coincidence that much of it feels like Apple Music.

Upon signing up for Rhapsody, you choose some of your favorite musical genres and artists to teach the service about your tastes. After that, the app will recommend new music based on your preferences. Generally speaking, picking out what you like shapes the app into something that’s more personal for you. No two Rhapsody users should have the same app and that’s a good thing.

There’s a small difference between Rhapsody’s sign-up process and Apple Music’s. When selecting your preferences, Apple Music encourages you to keep selecting whatever genres you like until you’re satisfied. Rhapsody caps you at three for some reason. This is probably OK for most people, but I have eclectic tastes so I wish I could have selected more.

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Look familiar? Rhapsody and Apple Music both want you to pick your tastes upon signing up.
Photo: George Tinari/Cult of Mac

While the app generally tailors things to your interests, you can also get recommendations sent directly to you. This new feature is called Rhapsody Music Inbox; it notifies you of new music from your favorite artists and recommends new playlists curated by Rhapsody’s team.

Sound familiar? It’s similar to Apple Music Connect and Apple’s highly touted emphasis on curation — with less of the celebrity factor and more focus on the music.

“We make sure we’re surfacing the most relevant music for our listeners, no matter where they are,” Rhapsody CFO Ethan Rudin told Cult of Mac. “No one person in L.A. or London is telling you what to think is cool.”

That’s a Beats 1 burn if I’ve ever heard one.

Rhapsody personalized recommendations

Browsing through Rhapsody’s offerings, everything is just about what you’d expect. You can browse various playlists, check out artist pages and search for just about any song and play it instantly. Rhapsody claims it has the largest streaming music library, with over 35 million songs available (although Taylor Swift’s 1989 is still loyal to Apple Music).

I found Rhapsody’s personalized recommendations weren’t quite as accurate as Apple Music’s, but they didn’t totally miss the mark.

What I really like about Rhapsody is how it handles your personal music collection — one aspect of the Apple Music experience that’s been roundly panned as not quite ready for prime time.

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Rhapsody includes several features found in Apple Music and Spotify.
Photo: George Tinari/Cult of Mac

With Rhapsody, you can browse through songs, artists and albums in your music collection, or you can separately save individual songs and albums to a Favorites list. As soon as you add a song to Favorites, it automatically downloads for offline listening, too. Handy features like this don’t go unnoticed.

Overall, the new Rhapsody app for iOS and Android is solid. For the industry-standard $9.99 per month, you get everything you could ask for in a music streaming service: unlimited song access, offline access, your own library, radio and recommendations.

Is it as good as Apple Music and Spotify? Almost. I’m an Apple Music convert from Spotify and I plan to stay that way. I like the design of both Apple Music and Spotify a bit better, but Rhapsody brings a lot of convenient little features.

The thing is, none of these streaming services are wildly different from any other. If you hang all of them on a wall, close your eyes and throw a dart, you’ll probably be content with whatever you hit.