October 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Playground.fm: Social Radio for iOS, in Seconds

playground.fmHere’s a new way to listen to music you are likely to like, for free on your iPhone or other iOS device: the recently-updated Playground.fm, which turns people’s playlists into free radio stations for your phone.

To use Playground.fm at all, you must log in with Facebook — however, you can decide whether it shares what you’re doing with everyone, only your friends, or only yourself (i.e. nobody else). Once you do, you’re immediately presented with a whole slew of playlists, intelligently chosen for how much they resemble your taste as indicated by your iOS music library and Facebook Connected music behavior.

It takes seconds to start listening to these nicely-laid-out playlists — and not much longer to create them yourself. I connected the app to my Spotify Premium account, and had instant access to all my playlists there. The same goes for Rdio — but even if you don’t pay for a modern music subscription like those, you can create and share Playground.fm playlists using the music stored on your iOS device’s Music app (the one that has your music from iTunes).

NoiseToys developer Vivek Agrawal explained the app thusly, via email:

Playground.fm is a music service that finds playlists you’ll love from people who share your music taste. With millions of playlists out there, it’s harder than ever to find the best ones for you. Rather than searching or filtering through the noise of social feeds, Playground recommends the best playlists for you, created by music fans everywhere, based on the music you listen to on your iPhone, Spotify, Rdio, and more.  All you have to do is scroll, tap, and instantly enjoy great music. Playlisters of the world can share playlists from their iPhone or Spotify Premium account, and we instantly surface it to their friends and people who would appreciate their music.

This might sound like another also-ran, because there are so many social music services out there. Also, some of the playlists were frustratingly off (several recommended playlist had Top 40 stuff that is not my cup of tea, and this app is supposed to be personalized). But a few key things make Playground.fm worth the install, in our estimation:

  • The design is really nice and easy to use, whether for listening or sharing your own playlist.
  • The integration with Spotify, Rdio, and the Apple Music app works smoothly, and lets users import playlists with one important change: they are turned into DMCA-compliant streams (note: This particular feature uses technology from The Echo Nest, publisher of Evolver.fm). This makes them legal — without making the app prohibitively expensive.
  • It has sweet extra features like a Sonar mode, which lets you know when you are physically close to another user you have liked, and a Join Room feature that lets you listen along to other users, by following a notification that pops up when they listen to one of your playlists. Within that room, you can request songs from the playlist. (Hint: Swipe left to see the other listeners in a room.)
  • It has native AirPlay integration, so you can listen on your nice speakers without messing around with this.

More screenshots: