Bloom.fm for iPhone, iPad review
Bloom.fm is currently enjoying the kind of mobile visibility you might not expect, being advertised on the side of buses. The high profile campaign, for an app at least, is promoting a service that combines hundreds of genre based 'radio stations' offered free, with the ability to 'borrow' music to play offline from as little as a £1 a month. Available at either 160Kbps AAC or 320Kbps MP3, the latter for subscribers, Bloom.fm offers an impressive 22 million tracks, which compares favourably with Spotify's "millions" of tracks.
A neat Radio Wheel gives instant access to a range of themed stations, similar to those offered by the excellent SomaFM, and these include Pop, Alternative, Classical, Jazz, and for the active Gym. Each option has a further option, which breaks down each genre further, while each track can be played without waiting for the last one to finish simply by skipping forward. Additionally, tracks can be accessed directly from your mobile iTunes collection via a user interface that while quirky - a flying bee - is a hymn to minimalism, worthy of Apple's recent iOS 7 make under. Despite criticism of streaming services from Radiohead's Thom Yorke particularly, believing such services are bad for nurturing and promoting new talent, this seems like a great way to discover new music and rediscover old favourites.
Currently Bloom.fm offers a variety of monthly payment plans available on up to three devices, including Bloom Zero - streaming radio (free), Bloom 20 - borrow 20 tracks at a time (£1.49), Bloom 200 - borrow 200 tracks at a time (£6.99), and Full Bloom - unlimited borrows and on-demand streaming (£13.99). These options are significantly cheaper if you sign-up and subscribe via the Bloom.fm website. At £1, £5 and £10 respectively, these are in line with Unlimited and Premium services offered by Spotify, although Spotify's £4.99 option is restricted to computers only. When you do sign up you’re not tied to any long term contract, although Bloom.fm subs will renew automatically each month unless you remember to cancel them.
UPDATE: Shortly after this review went online Spotify introdced a free version (with limitations) of the Spotify mobile app.
The excellent and free themed radio service aside, Bloom.fm is an interesting, promising proposition, at its cheapest covering those who aren't too sonically obsessed, who simply want to keep tabs of current musical trends. Equally, the all-you-can-eat Full Bloom is a tasty temptation for keen music lovers who are happy to borrow tracks rather than actually own them.