SomaFM Radio Player for iPhone, iPad review
We've been big fans of SomaFM for some years now, currently a collection of 24 cool and eclectic radio channels broadcasting from a converted warehouse in San Francisco. Listener-supported and commercial-free, SomaFM broadcasts themed channels with intriguing titles such as Cliqhop, Doomed, Groove Salad, Illinois Street Lounge, Secret Agent and Suburbs of Goa. A soundtrack for both day and night and essentially left-field, its output is far from obscure or difficult and widens the chilled musical agenda significantly, with channels devoted to 1980s new wave and synthpop, folk, Americana Roots music, cover versions and currently two, thankfully X Factor free, Christmas music channels.
SomaFM streaming music mixes in real time and is not broadcast on demand so without sounding too cosmic the experience feels like as shared one, particularly if you have friends listening in other parts of the world or are tuned into to the deeply meditative Drone Zone. SomaFM encourages regular listening by offering a deep playlist, which doesn't rely on the same tracks played repeatedly. Additionally, SomaFM actively supports new music, which differentiates the channel further with music you won't hear on other streaming stations and helps give a platform to those who might otherwise go unheard.
Despite the launch of Apple's minimalist iOS 7 redesign, SomaFM Radio Player hasn't been updated since summer when full iPad support was introduced, but that's no bad thing. The current user interface is fairly busy but includes essential information on stations, playlists, links to tracks on iTunes, sharing via Twitter and Facebook and news, including all important fundraising targets to get SomaFM alive and kicking. The next update, due likely in the new year, will add iOS 7 functionality rather than strip the app of its distinct, functional design. For now, SomaFM has released a free special edition SomaFM Holiday Radio app, which includes the family friendly Christmas Lounge and not so friendly Xmas in Frisko, which likely Ebenezer Scrooge would love.
SomaFM Radio Player really is an essential iPhone app not just for music lovers but for anyone looking for something a little different and alluring. There are of course free and cheaper iOS radio apps available, and the corresponding desktop player for Mac is free, but investing £2.49 shows faith in an exceptional service and may just help secure its long-term future, which must be a good thing.