First look at Rhapsody for N800

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Rhapsody, the music subscription service from Real Networks is now available for Nokia’s N800 Internet Tablet. While so far the music library Kerttu and I have accumulated has been perfectly enough for me, I decided to give Rhapsody a shot.

Installation on N800 was not very easy as the download link provided in Nokia’s Tableteer site didn’t work. However, I was able to find the direct download URL and so install the application. This will hopefully be fixed by Nokia soon.

In any case, when installed Rhapsody populates an icon to the Maemo menu (by default to “Favorites” but this can be changed). Clicking it launches the application in full-screen state, a bit like Canola:


When launched, I was asked whether I already had a Rhapsody account, or whether I wanted to try a 30 day trial. I opted for the trial since I don’t know if Rhapsody will be useful for me or not.

The application is split into three panels, two of which fit into screen at same time. The left-most is the music searching and browsing view that uses a kind of tree system for displaying different selections. The middle panel is the current playlist, and the right-most panel displays currently playing song. The panels can be navigated using the big “Now playing” and “Library” buttons between them.

Music could be searched by artist, album or track. On a quick search I noticed the song selection to be wide but very US-centric. However, as a pleasant point for anybody using the thumb keyboard, the search seemed quite good at catching typos and providing “did you mean… ?” results.

Clicking a search result takes you to the artist’s “folder” where you have options like All albums, Top tracks and Samples. Unfortunately these don’t necessarily contain any results. It would be a lot nicer if options that don’t lead anywhere were greyed out for example. This is especially problematic as the UI seems to be a bit unresponsive at places.

Clicking a song adds it to the playlist, which may be arranged using the arrow buttons in the bottom of the screen. The client for Nokia seems to support only streaming, which mostly works quite well but was breaking a bit in my tests.

Based on these quick tests, I don’t think I’m ready to pay the 10$ or 15$ per month for the service. Rhapsody contains a lot of music, but most of it is not very relevant for me. And being able to play the music only when I have a good internet connection is not that appealing either. But we’ll have to see.

Updated: I kind of understand why such proprietary content distribution system has to be closed source, but it should be a Canola backend instead of providing its own, slightly weird UI. Hopefully open content alternatives appear sometime soon…

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