If you were expecting drama over the Rhapsody iPhone app from RealNetworks, get ready for a disappointment: Apple has approved the application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Rhapsody subscribers everywhere are rejoicing, and analysts are weighing in on what this means for iTunes.
Rhapsody submitted its on-demand, streaming music application to Apple for review in late August. Some wondered at that time if Apple would allow RealNetworks to offer a competing music service on its devices. Instead of buying songs from Apple's iTunes Store for 99 cents or $1.29 each, Rhapsody subscribers can listen to their song library on the iPhone as part of their $14.95 a month fee.
Subscribers log in to the app with their existing username and password. Users will see a menu bar across the bottom of the screen and have the option to check out the queue, their library, or browse the Rhapsody library for new music to stream. Non-subscribers will have an opportunity to try the app for a limited free-trial period.
What's Possible with Rhapsody
"If you have kids, there are a ton of options for kid-friendly, parent-approved music to help entertain your little ones while you're running errands. You'll always be able to see if the 'Top 40' are really all that awesome," said Lacy Kemp of RealNetworks, counting down 10 reasons why people will love the new Rhapsody application. "There are so many ways to find new music on Rhapsody. Try listening to an artist station. You'll be amazed at what you find!"
Subscribers can also save the songs they've listened to as a playlist, hook into Rhapsody's exclusive artist premieres to hear new music before it hits anywhere else, experiment with new music without spending extra money, carry eight million songs on one device, and, as Kemp put it, get "instant gratification" by never having to wait to hear a favorite song again.
"Take advantage of one of Rhapsody's best features: Music discovery," Kemp said. "You'll be amazed at the amount of new music you'll hear -- and even better -- the amount of new music you'll love. You'd never have an opportunity like that if you had to pay for every song you tried."
Changing How Music is Consumed
Phil Leigh, a senior analyst at Inside Digital Media, expects the app to put some juice in Rhapsody's business. RealNetworks has faced fierce competition from other subscription services, Leigh said, and has never been available on a truly popular portable device. With an iPhone app, RealNetworks has a competitive advantage, at least for now. The larger question is how the app might impact iTunes.
"There are two problems with Rhapsody's service. One is that you can't play the music unless you are connected to the Internet. So if you want to listen to the music while you are on an airplane, you can't do it. There are still going to be people who want to buy the music from iTunes," Leigh said. "The second thing is this application doesn't run in the background, so you can't respond to e-mail while you are listening to music through Rhapsody."
Leigh said Rhapsody could boost its business by lowering the subscription price from $14.95 to $10. Considering that most Rhapsody users are already paying for home broadband -- and paying an additional $30 for connectivity on the iPhone -- an extra $14.95 a month could push some consumers away from a subscription service. But lowering the price may not be possible, he admitted, considering agreements with record labels.
"This is good for Rhapsody. It will probably restore growth to the company. I think consumers will respond favorably to it," Leigh said. "But it's not going to be a major change in the way digital music is consumed."