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Summary:

Want to hear your handheld music subscription when you don’t have connectivity? If you have the new Slacker software for BlackBerry or Android, you can. The mobile app just added wireless music caching for offline playback when there’s no signal to be found.

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As much as I love Pandora for mobile music streaming, I’ve become more enamored with Slacker over time. Today, Slacker added what was promised at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show — music caching that enables offline playback. BlackBerry handsets already offered music caching, but it wasn’t a wireless function. As of today, with the latest version of Slacker, it is for BlackBerry handsets as well as Android devices.

Offline music caching requires a Slacker Radio Plus subscription, which is $4.99 per month, or a yearly fee of $47.88. The subscription also provides your music ad-free, offers unlimited skips and complete lyrics for songs. Slacker says that if you’re not a subscriber, you can still test the offline caching with a 14-day trial. Nosing around the forums, I see that caching will take place over Wi-Fi or your phone’s cellular connection. Nice to see that it isn’t limited to just Wi-Fi, although that’s the default connection. You can also schedule an auto-cache so the software will be fully loaded when you wake in the morning, offering connection-free tunes during the day.

The new Slacker version for BlackBerry is limited to certain handsets. Older Curve 8830 plus 8300-series and lower devices aren’t supported with this version, so if you have one of these, don’t look for the new cache feature. Given the general similarity between Pandora, which offers both a free and paid program, I’m curious if you’re using Pandora, Slacker, or both of these music apps on your handset. And is anyone besides me wondering why Apple is leaving money on the table by not offering a music subscription service?

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

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  1. I upgraded to the annual sub about two weeks ago. Unlimited skips, no ads. Can’t wait for caching to show up on iPhone. Wish Slacker would also land on Sonos – I made some introductions, maybe it’ll pan out. :)

  2. i recently signed up for pandora one; but think i like slacker radio more. will probably stick with pandora one hoping they will update their android app, desktop app, and the service in general to include caching.

  3. I’ve been using Pandora for a long time, until the last couple of months I’ve switched exclusively to Slacker. I stil don’t like Slacker’s UI as much, but their music discovery and the ability to fine tune your custom stations makes it a FAR better service. The most telling part of all? Over 4 years of Pandora use, I always stuck with the free version (was always on the fence about whether it was worth paying for) — after only 2 months with Slacker, I signed up for a premium subscription, absolutely convinced.

    I’ve tried all the major services, and I think it’s easily Slacker > Pandora > Last.fm.

  4. I had a Slacker G2 and returned it b/c of the caching. It wasn’t downloading/caching current songs b/c of licensing rules. I hope this doesn’t mess with the quality of the music on my Droid now. If it doesn’t, all is good! If it does, I’ll be pretty upset.

    And yes, I, too, am signed up for Slacker Plus!

  5. I actually subscribe to the Plus versions of both Pandora and Slacker, but I use them for different things: Music in the home office via Pandora and cached on my mobile device for Slacker. I loved that ability with the Blackberry Storm, but am now very glad to have it for the Droid as well. And being able to cache via WiFi is wonderful!

  6. I have a Palm Pre. The Slacker app is available and I love it, but no caching yet. I’m dying for them to come out with it so I can listen at work.

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