FlyTunes on the iPhone – internet radio done right?
Yesterday I finally got my *invitation* from FlyTunes to sign up and start listening to their streaming internet radio webapp. So, after a painless signup process I was presented with the player interface. It’s simple to use, and allows you to select a number of different music genres to choose from (although you are limited to americanized definitions of genres, for example where is the Electronica genre? hmm…americans anyway think that electronica is stuff like Moby..lol). I selected a genre: ‘Chilled’, and it takes a few seconds to buffer the stream in the quicktime player interface. Then I was listening away. It works.
But, it also felt a bit like an anticlimax. After all the hype that FlyTunes got before Macworld in the tech blogs about a ‘radical new app for the iPhone’ , and a way to ‘listen to your own music’ I was expecting something….else? Don’t get me wrong, the service works as far as you being able to listen to music streaming from FlyTunes. But what happened to the ability to hear your own music? I thought that there was a component to install on your PC or Mac that would allow you to listen to your own music? I also thought that you would see a screen in the player with various Album/artist covers to select from? After all, this is what was shown initially when it was first talked about. In a direct head-to-head contest I would take either Nutsie (a service that requires you to upload your itunes library.xml file to a server, then download a j2me app that allows you to listen to your music) or any number of S60 solutions for internet radio (either Nokia’s Internet Radio app, or Virtual Radio etc) all above FlyTunes. All these other ways of listening to internet radio on your mobile far surpass FlyTunes in user configurability.
I think that in the long-run FlyTunes has it’s work cutout. In a couple of weeks the SDK will be released for the iPhone, and I expect very quickly a native app that works much better than FlyTunes. In fact there is an unofficial native app that fills this area already: iRadio. If this app becomes ‘Official’ in the next few weeks, then I would immediately use it. It allows you to subscribe to ANY shoutcast streaming radio service (just like the Radio portion in iTunes). There is also another native app called ‘Simplify Media’ which allows you to listen directly to your own complete iTunes library, plus other friend’s libraries. So instead of some service like FlyTunes telling you what you can or can’t listen to, it’s entirely up to you. Fill it up with 200 pure death-doom radio stations if you like. Listen to what you like.
If FlyTunes had come out 6 months ago, then I think it could have had more relevance. But somehow I feel it has under-delivered on it’s initial promise, and it’s simply come too late to really have any sustained impact. Shame, because it technically works fine. Oh well.