Shuffler.fm is a new service that aims to assist with music discovery and streaming. It’s available now as a free app for the Web, iOS, Deezer and Spotify. This review focuses on the experience of using the service via an iPhone.
Shuffler.fm’s concept is to take the wealth of freely-available music and information about music on the Web and bring it together into a format that makes it easier to understand, digest and follow. Pulling in content from a wide variety of sources from around the Web, the service allows users to construct their own personalized “music magazine” in which they can both read information about their favorite artists or articles from their favorite blogs, all the time streaming an enormously diverse selection of free music.
Shuffler.fm’s iOS app isn’t the most intuitive app there ever was, and its interface provides the user with information that initially seems somewhat contradictory, inviting them to “press the + button” to add favorite artists and music blogs while there is no “+” button on screen. However, what it actually means is that the user should browse the available content — organized by trends/charts, genres and content sources — pick out some interesting-sounding tracks and posts, then “follow” them from there. When the user finds a song they like, they may follow either the artist or the blog that posted the track from the song’s page.
Once the user has followed some artists and blogs, the “Magazine” part of the app starts displaying a feed of content from all these subscribed sources, which optionally can be filtered to display just subscribed favorite artists or favorite blogs. The user may then start playing the content, and it will automatically advance to the next track when the previous one is complete, effectively acting as a sort of Internet radio station.
Shuffler.fm is a very good idea at heart, but the app leaves a little to be desired at present. The biggest problem is the interface, which looks nice but isn’t very well organized or particularly intuitive. It’s missing basic features such as the facility to search for a specific artist, and silly little things like the fact that the list of genres isn’t organized alphabetically make the experience significantly more frustrating than it needs to be — though oddly enough, it is possible to search genres, just not for individual artists. This has the side-effect of forcing the user to explore and try out some music and artists that may be unfamiliar to them, which is essentially the point of the service, but the way this is implemented — whether or not it was intentional — feels a little heavy-handed.
That said, once you have found some content to subscribe to, Shuffler.fm does a good job of delivering an eclectic, continuous streaming music mix to your phone. Sound quality seems to be very good and, assuming you have a reliable Internet connection, the streaming process appears to go without a hitch. There’s no facility to use the app offline or cache content, but given that the point of the service is for new music discovery rather than listening to the same things over and over again, this isn’t surprising; besides, there are plenty of other apps with offline support, including Spotify.
Shuffler.fm shows a good amount of potential right now, but needs a bit of extra work to make it a bit more accessible and intuitive. The app itself looks good and works smoothly; it just needs organizing a little better and a search function implementing to make it easier to navigate. As it stands, it’s a good solution for music discovery; with a few tweaks, it could be great.
Shuffler.fm is currently ranked at No. 390 in Top Free Music Apps. It’s currently enjoying a feature spot on the App Store’s front page, which will likely bring it a short-term influx of users. You can follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.