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Slacker for BlackBerry Review

CrackBerry Idol - Martin
By Kevin Michaluk on 11 Jul 2010 05:40 pm EDT
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Review of Slacker Radio for BlackBerry Smartphones


For me discovering Slacker was like discovering a gem amongst the plethora of blackberry apps available via download from the BB App World store. Sure there are plenty of music apps out there, but there is no other app worth coining with the phrase "radio on demand." And even though that term seems like a contradiction in the sense of what traditional FM radio is about, Slacker has gone to great lengths in providing a true ‘variety of music' experience while giving the listener the maximum control over their preferences and tastes.

Slacker for BlackBerry

Slacker Works by providing you with musical Stations organized into 100 pre-programmed stations or about 10,000 artists stations. You can select a music station from say the "Alternative" genre albeit "Indie Chill" or "Singer-Songwiter" with the latter being mighty folksy if that's your deal, or you can find music based on the Artist. And this is where the app gets interesting. For example, I am listening to the Soundgarden Station and already I've heard "1979" by the Smashing Pumpkins and "Glycerine" by Bush. The App takes an artist and plays music that was popular at the height of that artist' popularity, then slowly progresses into less popular artists and or less popular songs. And this works for every artist. For example if you type Tupac, you'll get Snoop Dogg, tha Dogg Pound, Dr. Dre, Mack 10, Camilionare (from '96!) and so on. Similar genre with similar personnel.

But the power of slacker comes in its multiple forms of customisation. And there are five ways you can do this. Four of which are "Free" and one, unfortunately the most flexible one, is subscription only. If I happen to run across an annoying song by Nirvana, I can skip it (which puts it out of rotation for a while), I can ban the song (which bans it from the Soundgarden Channel), or I can outright ban the artist (no longer plays Nirvana in the SG Channel). At the same time, if I happen to like a Nirvana Song, I can "heart" it and it will play more often. Worth mentioning is that non subscription users are limited to six (6) skips per hour. But Slacker is really nice about this and if you use up all your skips, they give you back one (1) skip for every two tracks you don't skip. And so on. Now there is a way around this (sort of). If you use up all your skips say in the SG channel, you can go back to the menu and type in "spoonman" which is a SG song. This works majority of the time though not all of the time. If it does work, slacker will form "Spoonman Radio" and play most of the same artists that are in the SG Channel. If you use up all of those skips, you can select the Smashing Pumpkins channel which is part of the SG channel and so on and so on.

Slacker for BlackBerry

The final Customisable option is the web component and this is subscription only. At Slacker.com (after you activate your account via email), you can "create a station". Here you can pick and choose the songs and artists you want to listen too in a particular artist' station. For example in the SG channel, I only want to hear the Smashing Pumpkins, The Chilli Peppers and Soundgarden. I can do that. Of course you can achieve this from your phone using the skips, bans and hearts but it takes a very long time unless you have the time and enjoy playing with the app and love to venture through music. If not, you can get the relatively cheap subscription (3.99 per month) and customise a station in 5 minutes which is great on time.

Pros

Fantastic interface (great looking, simple and organized which is important), Speed improvements over version 3.0 including a much decreased buffering time per track and reduced data usage due to Slacker switching from MP3 streaming to AAC+ streaming. 40k I believe. Sound quality and volume loudness still remain great. "Station Cashing" is another great tool that Slacker offers though I don't have use for it. If you happen to have a limited data plan, you can use WiFi at home to cash up to 100 channels and then play them back at your convenience from your media card. Each channel takes about 200mb from your media card but that includes 20 plus artists and 100 songs.

Limitations for non subscription users include being limited to 6 skips per hour though there is a way around this as we've discussed. Upcoming track Icon is not displayed but who really cares. There are ads though very few. And they come and go. Sometimes you won't have an ad for five songs and other times you'll have an ad as soon as you load a station. They vary between 5 and 30 seconds.

Cons

Stability issues. In version 3.1 I'm having problems using the browser after having Slacker running for 30 min or more. Once the browser goes, then email and text go and so on. I have to restart Slacker then everything is ok. If I don't touch Slacker and just listen to music, then all is ok. But if I'm interactive with it, after a while it begins messing with other things. Hopefully in 3.2 they'll fix this. Or maybe it's just me.

Slacker for BlackBerry

 

Conclusion

For free, it's amazing. With the subscription, it's even better. I wish I had the ability to pull an artist' inventory from my phone and listen to any track I want from what they have available. But, not yet I guess. Can't wait for version 4.0 ☺

Download

** This review was written as part of the CrackBerry Idol 2010 competition. Click for details. **

Reader comments

Slacker for BlackBerry Review

27 Comments

Kevin (aka Ryan Seacrest): I loved your audition video Martin - getting outside RIM headquarters set the expectations high, that's for sure. Good job. Let's see what the judges have to say on your review.

CrackBerry Idol Judges

Dieter: Lots of potential here, dawg. I like that you come across as being a real consumer end-user of the product. It's a good point of view to have and premise to take with your reviews as it helps you connect with the reader and I think they will value that. At the same time, things to need to get tightened up a bit, both on the video and written review. Need to bring out the key points you want to hit a little quicker and more concisely. 

Georgia: Hi Martin, you get a few seconds to make an impression on your viewers in a video and I am not sure that your video really captured me from the start. There was also a lot of uhms at the beginning but after a bit you relaxed and spoke very well, woot! I liked how you mentioned that Slacker is not the most beautiful looking app but that it was clean and easy to use. I found your written review very well constructed. I enjoyed reading all the tips and tricks that you learned from using Slacker, you also covered a lot of the functionality. Enjoyed it, thanks!

Craig: Your video review was a little disorganized. You seemed to muddle your way through it a bit. Not too bad, I managed to follow along. I did get the sense that you were struggling to get your points across. Same goes for the written review. You seemed to struggle to explain things properly. Also it's cache, not cash. This unfortunately shows your non-technical background. Also blackberry all lower case? You are going to make Kevin cry. :-)

I didn't like this review due to the lack of info given and the errors mentioned.

Too many to list. One point mentioned many times was that you need to upgrade from the free version to the 3.99 version to customize a station. This is not true.

I am on the free version and I have many customized stations. There are some limits to it but not many.

Didn't describe the differences between free and paid (paid removes small commercials, unlimited song skips, etc).

Sorry but Slacker is awesome and needs the correct and full info given so that people can choose what right for them.

not sure what app ur thinking of but it's not slacker. u cannot customize stations from the web on a basic subscription because it actually tells u that lol, so that is correct and i just double checked it. i also did list all the differences between paid and free so u are wrong again. Honestly, u have to make sure u know what u're going to type before u type it. do the research. it's very important to NOT spread misinformation about products to potential customers. perhaps u may want to reread my review and have slacker handy so u can try things out for urself. then maybe edit and fix ur post. personally i would greatly appreciate that. thanx again. :)

martin

I am guessing it is a version issue. I have customized stations and I am a free user too. But I created them back on the 2.x version(s). That may be what is going on here.

I do agree, though, that you should have more about the differences in the free/paid versions, and, the differences in the 2.x versus 3.x versions, as one can still usually find the 2.x jad file to load.

I have never used caching, but it is available to free users with a little bit of research. And to each his own, but I do like seeing the album cover of the next artists and that kind of info.

i didn't think about the v2 vs v3 deal because this review is usually for people who have never used the app. and when u go to d/l it, 3.1.97 comes up. but thanx for the info cause i didn't know u could do it in v2. :)

and i know cashing is available to free users, i don't think i said anywhere that it isn't. what i didn't mention is that in the free mode it's limited to i think 14 days only, then u lose them and have to re-cash them again.

I can send you my customized stations if that would satisfy you.

My comments are correct and verifiable. I gave up my paid XM radio to go with free Slacker. I have been with Slacker since Feb of this year and have 2 accounts (both free). I have cache and station customizing.

And since there has been someone else posting the same as I, you know I'm not just giving you a hard time. It's just facts.

What more can anyone say. I can't convince you or make you believe me. It works for me and many others too.

You did a pretty good job, but I agree that more information is needed and better organization. There are also some spelling and improper word use issues that you need to watch out for. :)

As for Slacker, the latest version I have (3.1.8) cleaned up a LOT of bugs from the previous few versions I had AND added the ability to skip tracks with my BT headphone controls. FINALLY! I use Slacker everyday and love it! The sound quality is surprisingly great and I love having the ability to customize my stations. One thing I didn't see mentioned by you though (and maybe it's just me?), but with 3.1.8 I'm getting artwork that doesn't match what is actually playing. Since I don't usually look at the artwork it's not that big of a deal, but it is a small issue.

Anyway, you did a good job and with a few changes I think you'll do well.

How does this compare to FlyCast?

I see the interface is nicer, but FlyCast pretty much gives all the same features for free.

well i used flycast before slacker so i'll give it a shot. say for example u decide to listen to the rap channel. in flycast u can skip songs in certain channels but u cannot really 'favorite' them so they'll play more often. nor do you have the flexibility to ban particular songs or even artists from that rap channel. here u can. and for free. that in a nutshell is what makes slaker unique and better than flycast for me. more control over ur listening pleasure is always a good thing...and should be their slogan, lol.
now, i have never used flycast 2.0. I'm still on 1.34 because 2.0 simply just doesn't work on my phone. the beta never worked nor did the final product. but from what i gather it's pretty much the same as 1.34 except that u can record what ur listening to which is pretty cool imo. :)

First off I thought the review was good, I use Slacker constantly its invaluable to me(and I use the free version).

I just wanted to add a few things for the 8350i users out there because I know it can be basically completely impossible to listen to any kind of streaming radio on the iden network. I tried out a few apps before I found Slacker and all of them had the same problem; 15 second pauses separated by 12 seconds of playing music.

The ability to cache changed all that, I believe Slacker will only allow you to download the older 2.9 version onto a OS 4.6.1 8350i. This version does allow you to cache stations(as many as you want depending on memory card size. You also have the ability to create stations and cache them also. No lyrics, no reviews. Sound quality is great. Also, the Slacker advertisements seem to be few and far in between. I know I heard a rumor that the ability to cache is only temporary lasting for 30days. I have been using mine for almost four months and still have this ability.

Just a heads up, mini review for the 8350i users.

@KEV: Being outside of rim was awesome. i felt pride for some reason even though its just a phone, haha. ;)
@DIETER: thanx for ur positive words mate. u know i thought i put as much as i could into a thousand words but after ur constructive criticism, i went back and reread it then realised there are a few places i definitely could've fit more if i had written less. So i really appreciated ur review. :)
@GEORGIA: u know u read me really well. U hit upon my strength and weakness all at the same time (just like my gf ;). I love to write and blogging for the first time has been somewhat challenging, but with the right criticisms and guidance i think anyone can get better. so thank u for ur positive words. And when i found out that we have to make a vid for every round, i was really bummed out. i can say so much more in a blog then in a video therefore the idea of making vids for blog reviews escapes me. but maybe thats just me. Thanx again for ur review, i liked it :)
@GRAIG: i don't know where to start with you. 90 percent of ur reviews so far have been a disaster. it's as if u have 0 interest in participating in this contest and it begs the question of why are u even in this contest? And don't get me wrong, i haven't taken ur "review" personally, because it's not even a review. it's basically a paragraph of vomit. not only do u regurgitate what the other judges say, therefore u have no original thought on the subject, but u actually make conclusions about me based on nothing. my blackberry is actually customized both internally and externally. i run hybrid OSes and my case is made to resemble the AI HAL 9000 super computer form 2001 (hence the red trackball and the wallpaper). I also in my spare time put together laptops. my first one was the APPL powerbook g4 @ 1.5mhz which i put together myself after buying all the parts from ifixit.com and gathering specs from the net in '04. Since then i've put together 17 laptops with custom boards and OSes. just out of curiosity i was wondering how many laptops you've put together and BBs you've customized? there's something about lenovo laptops i cant figure out so maybe u know. pm me alright? ;) NEXT time u have to write a review, think about it first, then type, ok? no one is interested in reading rubbish which is what the majority of ur reviews are. Basically an insult to the rest of us who actually put effort into our output. if u have no interest in this contest then resign, but don't put people through another one of ur large turds that we have to sift through to find meaning.

Martin - are you not trying to win a contest? Bashing a judge is not the way to go. And by the way if you 'really' want to get down to it - his name is CRAIG not GRAIG.

As for you're review, I don't think you hit on the cache feature (or in your glass house 'cash feature' - I hope by using this feature Slaker pays me) enough. In fact on your video you didn't have any cached stations.

The cache feature is the money feature here, with data caps and pricy roaming rates you can load up a bunch of cached stations and hit the road bandwidth free.

When someone enters a contest to win something, there will be judges involved. In our world not everyone thinks the same way so not everyone will blow sunshine up your ass to please you.

Perhaps consider that Craig is taking time out of his life to offer advice and comments. He's had fair advice for all the contestants thus far and nobody has lashed out quite like you.

But that's just my 2¢

-->Shall we play a game?

ya no body lashed out cause i think people just say "whatever" and move on. i've been reading all of his reviews and they all bother me, not just mine.

and the selling point of slacker is its customizable ability not its caching feature. u gotta look at the bigger picture homie. No other app has the ability to became a grape vine of sorts where u can travel endlessly through music history. its cashing feature is a nice touch, but if u don't have access to wifi, it's useless to you. a feature cannot be a selling point if it has an aspect of uselessness.

I agree w/ everyone else that A) your grammar/spelling is terrible (its "nobody" not "no body") and B) you have no reason to call out Craig. He is judging this as part of the idol competition and just voicing his opinion. I'm sure half of it is just his "Simon" anyway, but you are way off taking it all so seriously. He's just trying to help you out, and what he said has nothing to do with building laptops. Maybe you should learn to take some constructive criticism and not be so insecure and get so worked up.

And before you say it, no I couldn't do better hence why I didn't enter the competition. Hope you don't make it past this round or the blogs will definitely take a turn for the worse.

Agreed with @nereuszyre - your ability to fix laptops doesn't mean you're literate or able to piece together coherent sentences.

Your review wasn't all that bad - take the judge's comments (Craig) for what they are, part Simon personality and part actual constructive criticism.

-->Shall we play a game?

if Craig would have added constructive criticism then you and i wouldn't be having this convo. Have u read any of these user comments? Constructive criticism form Craig should have read something like this: "Also it's cache, not cash. This should be corrected as soon as possible as this is a tech blog where this word is used on a daily basis. :)" or something to that effect. THIS, my friend, is constructive criticism. Don't tell me i misspelled a word, then call me an idiot when it comes to mobile technology. i don't like the kind of judgmental attitude. Try to help people instead of disrespecting them and their work. That's all I'm saying. If he needs pointers on how to write CCs, then look at Dieter. The man's a master of CCs. He inspired me to rewrite my article using his pointers. Craig made me wanna stop writing forever. That is not good. i know i shouldn't get worked up about it but his review came of smug, disrespectful and wrong (about me).

Homie, did you read Craig's comments. Again it's Caching NOT CASHING! This app does not pay you to use it.

You spelled it wrong in your article, wrong in the title of your reply to my comment and you spelled it WRONG in the second paragraph.

And another thing, if someone a)owns a BlackBerry b)downloads and installs "Slacker Radio" on their BlackBerry; what are the chances that they do not have WiFi???

-->Shall we play a game?

the chances are actually quiet big because there are curves, tours and some androids out there that don't have wifi but I'm sure you knew that already. And many folks don't have unlimited data on their wifi rather 2 or 10 gig caps and if u cash....f*ck, lol...if u CACHE a station that takes about 150 to 200mb per, you can burn through a 10gb cap in a relatively short time. Not to mention a 2gb cap. That's why the caching function is not a selling point rather it's customization ability. word. :)

great review! i decided to download and give it a shot cause pandora has been acting up for me lately. thanks to you, there is a lot less trouble shooting and figuring out how the app works! thanks

only thing i would have liked to learn was battery drain, and if it ever skips or stops playing randomly, but i would assume since u didnt mention that it did this, that it probably doesnt skip or have bad battery drain.

great review!

I think you did a pretty good review. The video was nice in how it touched on some of the basic features as well as the interaction with the website. That is probably was intrigued me to the most in your video.

Definitely watch the "Um's" and repeating things. You had a tendency to say things a couple of times. There really isn't a need to repeat things over and over again. It's best to have a game plan ahead of time so you can have a better flow throughout.

The written review was good. The only complaint I have is that it wasn't a complete review. You barely touched on the caching portion of the app. I know you said you don't use it, but if you are really giving a proper review, you need to touch on all aspects of the app, not just the ones you use personally. Also, make sure to check for spelling errors.

Not bad. Not polished, but not bad.

Martin, not a bad review. I use Slacker almost daily. The caching of stations is great for taking music mobile.

Did I miss it or did you not mention that Slacker actually has 3 subscription levels? Basic, Premium, and then another level which allows direct song requests..? Maybe I missed that in the review.

All in all, best wishes on Wednesday when the voting begins!

thanx man.
and u did't miss it, because i couldn't find it. i just surfed through their website again, and i can only find two levels. but i know what ur talking about because every review i read mentioned 3 levels. But for the life of me i cannot find the third level. my phone as well, has no more ability to upgrade past the second level. so...im confused, lol. i think there was a third, but they got rid of it, that's all i can think of. unless it's there and simply don't see it. which is a bummer, lol. :)
and thanx regarding wednesday but i doubt i'll be moving forward after i bitched out one of the judges...SIMON COWEL lol.

Yeah, you sure did lay into Craig about his comments.

Anyway, check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slacker_%28music_service%29

It reads:
In addition to its free, ad-supported service, Slacker offers two levels of subscription services.

* Slacker Radio Plus adds station caching to mobile phones, unlimited skips and song requests, no audio or banner advertisements, full lyrics, and the ability to turn off DJ’s on stations.
* Slacker Radio Premium also adds the ability to save songs to the user's music library online and the Slacker Portable Player. Songs stored in the library can be played an unlimited number of times.

if u go to slacker.com u will see that there are only two levels, not three. Maybe there were three, but there are two now. And wikipedia uses outdated info as facts, you really should go to the source when u can. :)

Slacker has the worst customer support I have ever experienced, and I have experienced a lot. I do not recommend signing up for the ‘7 day free trial’ as it is a gimmick that involves a 1 year subscription that you can't cancel if you have any problem signing into your account. They will charge your credit card despite explicit instructions not to do so. See countless examples of this on their forums. Email 'support' is a non existent frustrating cut and paste experience that doesn't even address the question. Support is literally contemptuous and unhelpful. Follow-ups are ignored and not responded to except by further cut and pastes. Complaints about customer service are not addressed. If you never have to deal with customer support, you may find the service acceptable. Only sign up month to month until you are satisfied with the service and support.