There are generally two types of apps that are together categorized as streaming or online radio for the modern smartphone. Since I'm an owner of a Motorola Droid, I'm of course focusing on what I know. Apps like DroidLive and StreamFurious are the truest form of streaming. They play media as it is presented, usually from media sources like radio stations. Within the past few years new variations have developed that are also known as personal radio such as Slacker Radio, Pandora and even Rhapsody. This new breed of personal radio applications present a fascinating new venue for music lovers and bringing them to modern smartphones is making the services more and more ubiquitous.

I might be rather demanding, but I'm increasingly disappointed in the implementation of the new generation apps. As I listen in my car or while cycling, I've noticed that these apps can't adequately handle the situation of a lost Internet connection. I realize that anticipating a lost connection is hard to do, but accommodating it seems loads easier. Especially in this age of ubiquitous 3G. This still doesn't sound possible with services like SomaFM that are literally streaming their music live. However, Rhapsody, Slacker, and Pandora should be ashamed of themselves! Those services are serving different individual music files to each user, not a steady continuous stream to all users. Therefore, why can't they harness the fantastic new technologies of HTTP! Technologies like HTTP's "Range" header to continue buffering a file when the connection drops. (FYI: RFC2616 has been around since June 1999 and defined this header field.) Other strategies could also help, for example capping the throughput in order to let other connections (email syncing, IM, etc.) continue in the background can make the user experience better. Buffering files in this way would also allow these apps an opportunity to better emulate the radio stations they hope to replace with things like crossfading and voiceovers. I also don't see why this couldn't be used for video as well.

Comments? Is this something already being done or am I just ranting?

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13 April 2010


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