Shazam for iPhone review

You know that song? On the radio. By that band. What’s it called? You know, the one with the guitars. That really catchy one. Shazam purports to have the answer.

You launch the app and tap the tag button at the top right of the screen. Then hold your device close to the source of the song you would like identified. Shazam will ‘analyse’ it, and spit back an answer a few seconds later.

It handles some music better than others. Shazam loves current Top 40 hits, most classic rock and indie favourites. It doesn’t particularly care for movie scores, obscure indie rock, surf music or 90s vintage hardcore, and is confused by electronica.

When we took our first pass at Shazam, we selected soundtracks and scores from our iTunes libraries to test Shazam’s magic. We didn’t set out to choose obscure tunes. We simply went down the list of albums and selected a representative track or two from each. Of 60 selections, Shazam identified 42 titles correctly. Of those, Shazam identified just 33 of the artists correctly or at all.

The app does better with pop music, although sometimes its hearing can be a little bit off. We sampled around 150 popular and less well-known songs from iTunes Genius playlists. Shazam’s success rate was closer to 85 per cent, with some surprising stumbles. It misidentified The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ as ‘Ball O’ Fire’ by the Skatalites, though it got it right on the third attempt. This happens a lot with Shazam. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

If you do successfully tag a track or an artist, Shazam lets you purchase the track from the iTunes Music Store or peruse the artist’s biography and discography. If the song is associated with a YouTube video, it gives you a link. The discographies link to albums, which link to song samples that don’t play.

OUR VERDICT

Shazam requires a WiFi, EDGE or 3G connection to work, so if you take a song sample somewhere without a strong signal, the app will save the tags to send later.

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