App Review: Streaming Music

When I got the BlackBerry Curve 8900, I was really excited to load up my MP3s and use it as a portable music player for my workouts (besides that I don’t really use my MP3s anywhere else except at home and possibly when traveling).  I bought a larger memory card online and started moving over my music.  This was great and easy to do without any special software.  However, as time went on, I started getting tired of my music collection, got disorganized in terms of playlists, and kept forgetting to transfer new songs to my BlackBerry.  This was not good as I got bored at the gym and my workouts started suffering.

So, I decided to try out a streaming music app and see if it solved my problem.  But which one?  There were several apps in BlackBerry App World so I decided to experiment with three that my friends had recommended: Flycast, Pandora, and iheartradio. 

I used each app for a minimum 2 week period (or about 8-10 workouts) and rated each one based on their music selection, connection quality, and ease-of-use.  Music selection is an obvious metric since it’s the reason I started my little experiment.  I like to listen to different music depending on what I’m doing – for example, I want something more upbeat/rhythmic when doing cardio but want more heavy/alternative when lifting weights.  The second criterion, connection quality, is probably the most important metric for me as my phone only has an EDGE connection outside the house since there isn’t Wi-Fi at the gym.  I need the music to stream with good sound quality or else it’s not worth using.  And the final criterion, ease-of-use is a standard metric, in my mind, for any app.

The list below summarizes my ratings from most favorite to least: 

1. Pandora

Overall, Pandora is my favorite streaming music app and won in all three categories.  It really helped me step up my workouts and stay focused at the gym.

  • Music Selection: Excellent.  Beyond a vast library and minimal repetition, Pandora’s Music Genome Project is ideally suited for the gym as I was able to customize stations for my different workouts.
  • Connection Quality: Excellent.  When I first downloaded the Pandora app, it took quite a while to connect with their server and start streaming music.  After my second use, they released a newer version which resolved all of my issues.  The app starts up and connects to the server in less than 30 seconds on an EDGE connection and never skips a beat once connected. 
  • Ease-of-Use: Excellent.  When I downloaded the app, I also started using Pandora at work through my computer’s browser.  I can create, customize, or delete stations from my desktop browser or through the mobile app while both stay synchronized.

 2. Flycast

Flycast was the first app I tried, but its connection quality and menu layout prevented it from being my favorite.

  • Music Selection: Average.  Flycast has a large variety of genre-based stations that should be enough to satisfy anyone’s taste.  Since I could not control the programming in each station, I found myself station-jumping a lot trying to find something that matched what I wanted at that time.  I found it distracting during my workouts.
  • Connection Quality: Below average.  Flycast lists stations by their connection speed (i.e. 3G vs EDGE), so I selected stations that were marked as EDGE.  The app would establish a connection fairly quickly but the connection would drop very often.  I found this extremely frustrating.
  • Ease-of-Use: Poor.  Flycasts menus didn’t always load when I opened the app, so I couldn’t navigate to a station unless I had it marked as a favorite.  Not good at all.

3. iheartradio

This was my least favorite app due to the music selection.  It’s a good app for anyone who loves listening to existing broadcast radio stations but not for pure streaming music. 

  • Music Selection: Poor.  iheartradio supports a comprehensive list of existing broadcast radio stations but I don’t really listen to them when I’m driving, so why would I want to listen to them at the gym?  I just want music, so this was a huge negative for me.
  • Connection Quality: Average.  The app establishes a connection quickly but does drop the connection periodically, so it can be frustrating at times.
  • Ease-of-Use:  Below Average.  I found the menu layout and selection screens to be difficult to use when at the gym.  They required too much navigation/selection.


So for now, I’m sticking with Pandora as my streaming music app unless any of our readers can tell me about another app they think is worth trying out.  Leave your suggestions as a comment to this post.