When I did my initial Beats Music review back in January, I found the service to be so good I was almost certain I'd switch from Rdio and leave it behind. I did just that and for almost three months, I only used Beats Music on my iPhone, the web, and through Sonos. Unfortunately, small issues turned into much bigger ones that, ultimately, have led me to cancel my subscription. Here's why...
I'll start by saying that I stand by the points I made in my initial review of Beats Music. It does an amazing job at curation and playlists. The listening possibilities are endless and they're adding new music all the time. That's the part of Beats Music I love and that I'm really sad to let go.
My issues with Beats Music started with their app. It caused excessive battery drain. Beats was aware of the problem and pushed out an update fairly quickly. Unfortunately there were and are many other, sporadic issues that remain. Playback and streaming problems are something I experienced on a rather regular basis. The most peculiar part about it was that it happened even when a song was supposedly downloaded to my iPhone. That means there should be zero buffer time and the song should instantly play locally.
For the most part I overlooked the playback issue since quitting the app from multitasking and restarting Beats typically fixed it. At least at first. Slowly the problem got less sporadic and more frequent. Several updates later and it was still a problem. At this point I'd have to reboot my iPhone or toggle Airplane mode on and off. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. This issue was particularly annoying when I got to the gym and wanted to play a workout mix I had created. Beats Music would get stuck at certain songs and I've have to stop what I was doing in order to remedy the problem. Eventually I just closed the app and opened iTunes Radio to finish my workout.
Around the beginning of April I re-downloaded Rdio to my iPhone and iPad and fired it up. I renewed by subscription and all my stuff was still there. I decided to try and use Beats Music and Rdio for 30 days. Then I would make a decision on which one to keep. Over the first week, I found that I still preferred Beats Music for curation but I just couldn't rely on it. I listen to music through my headphones at the gym and while at Starbucks or somewhere else working. When I'm at home in my home office, I alway have Sonos going throughout our entire condo for background noise. When using Beats Music, I continually experienced long buffer times or gaps in playback. When using Rdio, I never once had to interrupt my workflow to launch the Sonos app in order to see what the problem was, because there was never a problem.
I thought about keeping both Rdio and Beats Music since there were bits and pieces of both I was reluctant to let go of. At least until I flew across the country to San Francisco. As usual, the plane's wifi was not working properly. The first thing I did was fire up Beats Music and put my headphones in. I turned on Offline mode and selected an album I had saved for offline playback. Instead I got the buffer wheel that just circled and circled and did nothing. I rolled my eyes and tried another album. The same thing happened. I only found 3 songs out of several hundreds that would actually play. The worst part? Those hundreds of songs were definitely eating up my iPhone's storage, yet none of them would play.
On a whim I launched Rdio. I didn't expect to have any music because I hadn't synced anything for offline playback since I had re-subscribed. However, Rdio had brought back down everything that I had previously synced to my iPhone before canceling my subscription. All of my songs and playlists were right there and available to play offline.
That's when I held my finger down on the Beats Music icon and tapped the x to delete it. Then I set a reminder in Fantastical to cancel my subscription as soon as I got home. To supplement music discovery and radio functionality — something I've never found Rdio to be great at — I'm using a combination of Songza, Pandora, and iTunes Radio. When I find something I really like, I add it to my collection in Rdio. Is it the most elegant solution? No. But it's one I know I can rely on. I'd really like to give Beats Music another go at some point, but I think I'll give the service some time to mature first.
What about you? If you're using Beats Music, have you experienced any of the same issues I've struggled with? And if you don't use Beats, what streaming services do you use and why? Let me know in the comments!
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iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.