The free Slacker Radio for Android, much like its browser-based counterpart, has undergone a massive redesign that that gives the interface a more under-friendly interface. The soft blue and white, panel-driven user interface doesn’t look as slick as the old black design, but it highlights important areas—Genre Stations, My Music, Specialty Stations, and News/Talk/Sports—via large, easily accessible squares. Slacker for Android lacks a few features found in the desktop counterpart, but it’s our new Editors’ Choice award-winning mobile streaming music app easily surpassing former favorite Spotify for Android.
Magical Sound Shower
“Genre Stations” is where you’ll find Slacker’s 20+ genre categories. Tapping “Jazz,” for example, reveals multiple sub-genres such as “Classic Jazz,” “Modern Jazz,” and “Big Band/Swing.” The category king is “Holidays” which boasts 29 stations at the time of this writing. “Specialty Stations” is where you’ll find the highlighted music collections such as “Music Festivals,” a channel that boasts Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza, and other concert-themed content. “Themes” has quirky collections such as “TV Commercials” and “Dive Bar Jukebox.” Slacker Radio has something for nearly every musical taste. Spotify for Android, one of Slacker’s main mobile competitors, doesn’t offer such varied station selection; for example, it only offers one Hip Hop channel, whereas Slacker Radio offers 11.
“My Music” is where personalized content lives. There you can create a station or playlist, and see bookmarked, recently played, custom, and cached stations. Cached stations let you tune in when a wireless signal isn’t available (Note: you can only refresh cached stations over Wi-Fi). “Favorite Songs” is easily my, well, favorite section as it creates a station around songs you’ve favorited. It’s like having a personalized greatest hits station and it’s a joy.
News/Talk/Sports is exactly what it sounds like—a collection of stations that cater to the news, talk, and sports. Comedy, ABC News, American Public Media, and ESPN programming fall under this category. The most intriguing of these stations is “Live,” where you can tune into one of many live, streaming ESPN radio shows. Unfortunately, ESPN is the only channel to serve up live programming, but it’s a Slacker stand out feature that sports nuts will appreciate. Men’s and Women’s lifestyle stations round out the talk options.
Spotify offers no live streaming options, but it counters Slacker with unique features of its own. Spotify has Facebook integration that lets you download and subscribe to the playlists that your buddies created. It’s an excellent way to discover new music. Plus, it has gapless playback and crossfade capabilities that Slacker Radio lacks.
Tapping a Slacker Radio channel launches an information page that provides a brief station overview. From there, you can bring a finger to the Play button or tap “Artists” to see a list of featured artists. “Songs” highlights the station’s tracks, and grays out the ones that aren’t available for on-demand streaming.
Album art is displayed as a song plays with Ban and Favorite icons flanking it. Tapping song titles open lyrics pages, but lyrics aren’t available for every song. A single tap of the album art itself opens options that let you ban and favorite tracks, view lyrics, add songs to playlists, and view album info. “Fine Tune” has toggles for turning on/off the Slacker DJ, and ESPN and News updates. The fine tuning is limited to that, however; the Slacker Radio Android app lacks the browser version’s customization sliders.
Pricing and Sound Quality
Slacker for Android is free, but listeners can also subscribe to Slacker Radio Plus for a commercial-free experience with offline listening and unlimited song skips for $3.99 a month. The Slacker Premium service delivers the ultimate experience with on-demand listening, the ability to create custom playlists, and more for $9.99 a month.
Slacker streamed crisp, hiccup-free audio over my home and office network connections. Unless you’re an audiophile, Slacker’s sound quality will satisfy even when the audio is pumped through iPad’s speakers, a pair of Sony MDR headphones, or streamed to a pair of speakers using AirPlay. The bass lines were full and bouncy, and there was a good separation of high and low sounds. It doesn’t have Spotify for Android’s “Extreme” mode, but the audio quality won’t offend.
The Final Countdown
If you fancy taking internet radio on the go, you’ll be well served by Slacker Radio for Android. The redesigned app makes navigation a breeze and the music and talk catalog is top-notch, easily surpassing Spotify for Android’s efforts. In short, if you’re an Android user who likes radio, download Slacker Radio for Android.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc