Rhapsody adds offline music play to iPhone app

Caches tunes on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad; no WiFi or 3G connection required

Rhapsody, the music-streaming service that split from its parent RealNetworks earlier this year, today launched an updated iPhone application that lets users listen to tunes when they're out of range of an Internet connection.

The updated 2.0 version of Rhapsody -- which also runs on the iPod Touch and iPad -- caches playlists on the devices, allowing customers to listen to music without an active connection to the Internet via WiFi or a 3G data network.

Rhapsody's original iPhone application, launched last September, limited listening to times when the iPhone or iPod Touch were connected to the Internet. Rhapsody remains the only on-demand music streaming subscription-based service on the iPhone in the U.S.

Users need to be connected via WiFi or 3G to download tunes to the devices, but once that task is completed, they can listen even in the "deepest crevices of the Grand Canyon," said Jon Maples, the product lead for Rhapsody, in an entry on the company's blog Sunday. Currently, only user-created playlists can be cached on the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad; the company is working on letting customer download individual songs and albums from the service's album pages, Maples said.

Rhapsody recently lowered its subscription prices from $14.99 and $12.99 per month to $10 per month; that plan allows a user to cache tunes on only one mobile device. The $14.99 plan remains available, and lets users download tracks to up to three devices.

Although the updated software runs on Apple's iPad, it's not designed for the tablet. "The new iPhone app works on the iPad, but because it isn't optimized for the iPad [user interface], it may look fuzzy or pixilated," said Maples. "Rhapsody is planning to release an iPad-optimized app later this year when Apple releases multitasking capabilities for the iPhone OS. That will also allow people to play Rhapsody music in the background while they're doing other tasks, such as e-mail, gaming, etc."

Last month, Apple previewed iPhone 4, the next version of its mobile operating system. But while iPhone and iPod Touch users will receive the update this summer, Apple has said the iPad won't get the new OS until this fall. Among the new features in iPhone 4 is a limited form of multitasking, including background audio.

Rhapsody will offer downloadable songs to Android users in the "next few months," and the company will ship Rhapsody software for the BlackBerry this summer, Maples added.

Rhapsody 2.0 can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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