Over the past couple of years, SoundCloud has become a favorite tool of musicians, record labels, and blogs to get the latest sounds out to the masses. Their newly-revamped iOS app, released today, puts all that music front and center.
SoundCloud has been available on the iPhone for awhile now, but this new version has been repackaged as a universal, iPad-friendly build that behaves more like a streaming music player. A streaming music player that works with AirPlay (and to be fair, the Android app has had this new look since the beginning of the month, sans AirPlay, of course).
New tracks come through in a Twitter-like feed, which is populated by accounts you follow. This could be a favorite artist or label, a blog or magazine, or just a friend. You can also run searches for specific songs or artists, and favorite the ones you want to listen to again on another day. No matter where you are in the app, the track currently playing appears in a bar at the bottom of the screen. When you're listening to something and you exit the app window, the app can be controlled from the multitasking menu, the lock screen or your headphone remote. The iPad app specifically takes the same multipaned approach to design that the Twitter iPad app does, allowing you to quickly browse through users and playlists via search, your favorites, or your stream (and it remembers where you left off in each sub menu). It looks perfect for a saturday spent on the couch catching up with all the tracks I bookmarked throughout the week.
For all the deserved hype the streaming music services have received, they're not the best way to stay up on the newer-than-new tracks circulating through the blogs. There are B-sides, throwaway tracks, streaming album premieres and mixes that are distributed in an unformal manner and outside the realm of a service like Spotify. SoundCloud, and by extension its apps, help cover some of that lost ground. If you're the type of music nerd who only listens to albums and don't want your library littered with stray tracks you'll end up redownloading with the official release, you'll love using this app. That said, the SoundCloud app is not a replacement for your music library. There are also some songs that probably shouldn't be up there legally and will disappear on a whim. You cant download tracks or build indvidual playlists, or listen to tracks offline. But these are minor nitpicks. Using SoundCloud isn't about building a deep library full of tracks that you return to months or years later. It's about hearing what's now. And having that in the somewhat more focused form of an app is great.