Rdio, a newcomer to the crowded playing field of streaming music services, launched this morning for U.S. and Canadian listeners. The service offers a socially-infused online music streaming experience for $4.99 per month or you can purchase a $10-per-month plan to access Rdio from both the Web and your mobile phone.
Rdio is notable for its social network integration, with its ability to connect your account to Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm. It also syncs your iTunes music to its database to create an online collection of songs.
These features are great, but more importantly, does Rdio have the tunes?
Rdio, which was co-founded and funded by Skype, KaZaA and Joost creators Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, launched into private beta last month with 5 million tunes and support from the four major labels. Since then, it's added independent labels and aggregators, including IODA, IRIS, Finetunes, INgrooves and The Orchard.
As Rdio launches publicly today, it offers 7 million tracks from a growing online catalog. And like its competitors (MOG, Spotify, Rhapsody, Thumbplay and others), those tracks are available for unlimited streaming for as long as you're paying for the service.
MOG, however, had 8 million-plus tracks available at last count. That may not seem like much of a difference, but when you think about the fact that the industry giant iTunes, in comparison, has a total catalog of 13 million-plus songs, you realize that every track counts.
Missing a million tracks also starts to matter when you can't find your favorite band. After trying Rdio, fellow ReadWriteWeb writer Mike Melanson lamented its lack of Pink Floyd. But when I searched for the artist this morning, 41 albums came up. What gives? Apparently, Rdio happily lists all the albums by an artist, but only some are available for listening. Many of the track listings simply read "not available" when you click through to access the individual songs. (For what it's worth, MOG doesn't have the complete Pink Floyd, either, but you can at least easily tell which albums you can stream and which you can't.)
Rdio offers several standout features in addition to the social networking integration that lets you see what your friends are listening to and sync your music preferences over to Last.fm. With Rdio, for example, you can pre-load your iTunes collection into the service, start and stop tracks at the same place when moving between desktop and mobile, gapless playback is supported and, best of all, it multi-tasks.
MOG, unfortunately, doesn't support multi-tasking yet on mobile, which is a clear drawback. But otherwise, its mobile application is the better of the two, in our opinion, with its on-the-fly playlist creations and overall presentation.
At the end of the day, though, we have to wonder: What will matter more to the end-user, the feature sets or the tracks available? Until Google Music launches (if and when it does), we would have to bet on the latter ourselves. Given Android's growing popularity and its lack of an official iTunes competitor (DoubleTwist works well for syncing, but doesn't "come with" or include a store), many new Android owners are contemplating the switch from downloading tracks to streaming them instead. For $10 a month, those ready for a cloud service now have several options to choose from. What will matter to you when you make your pick? Features or catalog?