Turntable.fm for iPhone review: Lots of potential, lots of bugs

turntable-feature

For fans of streamed music, another choice has arrived on the iPhone. Turntable.fm’s official, free iPhone app hit the App Store Tuesday, and the company also received a significant round of funding. It requires nothing more than your Facebook credentials to get started, unlike other services. We gave it, shall we say, a spin. Note that Turntable.fm’s iPhone app is a mobile port of its popular desktop app.

Like many first versions of iPhone apps, Turntable.fm isn’t without its bugs. Sometimes when you logout of the iPhone app, it requires you to reauthorize via Facebook, something which should normally be required only once. It also crashed several times, and was occasionally laggy or slow to change rooms, and playback sometimes cut out. The more popular the room, the more issues it seems to have.

Once in the app, you navigate between DJ “rooms” that have music already playing, selected by the DJ. Each room has a limit of 200 people and five DJs — just like the website. Leaving rooms wasn’t intuitive (you have to go to the lobby and then click the X on the room). Although the iPhone app has the speaker graphics like the desktop version, you can’t change the volume by clicking on the speaker, but must return to the lobby to change the volume and output.

Chat works just fine on the iPhone (albeit via a separate, dedicated screen), but you can’t add a song to your queue directly by clicking on the song in the DJ room itself. You must manually add it to your queue, which is accessed somewhat confusingly using the chat icon from the main room screen. Your queue is synced between desktop and iPhone versions, however, which is a nice touch. Another nice bonus on the iPhone is that content plays in the background even when you exit the app, although your normal music controls in the app multitasking tray and lock screen don’t affect playback.

Creating a room and DJ’ing are both possible from within the app, but note that you can’t upload any music on the iPhone app. You can only play items already in your queue, or add to them from Turntable.fm’s existing database of tracks. You can still decide whether a song is Awesome or Lame on the iPhone app in order to give the DJ points. A nice visual tweak displays iPhone users with an iPhone in hand at the DJ booth. Over Wi-Fi, navigation was smooth and music started immediately, but over 3G, music suffered from drop-outs, and sometimes, I couldn’t enter rooms.

Overall, I like the idea of Turntable.fm and this app. This seems like a great way to be introduced to new music (as is something like Pandora) without the same music repeating itself (a common problem with Pandora). The app has great promise, but needs a lot of work to overcome its current bugs. As long as issues get resolved in upcoming versions, it should introduce more users to the Turntable.fm services.

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