We7 has today launched the We7 Radio Plus app for Android, bolstering its online streaming service with a free, mobile offering. The key selling point of Radio Plus is its ability to 'cache' songs offline; moreover Radio Plus it is the first free application to offer that feature.
Much like rival services, We7's Radio Plus app enables users to listen to radio stations customised based on an artist of their choice, with a number of We7-created stations also available if you want to let someone else select your music. Unsurprisingly for a free service, Radio Plus will be ad-supported, with audio stings playing ever four songs or so, accompanied by an on-screen advertisement.
In its current beta stage there don't appear to be any adverts in the app, so it's hard to tell how intrusive they will prove. However, once ads do start appearing, users unable to put up with them will have the option to upgrade to We7's on-demand streaming service for £9.99 a month. Although with rivals such as Spotify and Napster competing in that space, We7 has its work cut out to temp users into upgrading from its free offering.
According to We7 CEO, Steve Purdham, even at this early stage of Radio Plus' release, We7 already has plans for its further development. Plans to follow the Android release with an iPhone We7 Radio Plus app are hardly surprising. A forthcoming addition we're definitely keen to see is critical is the ability to mark songs or artists that you don't want to appear in your radio playlist. Currently it's only possible to 'like' tracks, making them more likely to show up, but there's no way to filter out unwanted content - an ability Last.fm, to name but one alternative, does offer.
Purdham was particularly enthusiastic about the benefits that offline caching brings to Radio Plus, suggesting that for smartphone owners on bandwidth-limited, or even those with PAYG, tarrifs it offers the best solution for filing a phone with free music. Radio Plus will buffer somewhere between five and six hours of music - storage capacity permitting - which should be enough to last all day for most users. If an Internet connection becomes available - whether over 3G of Wi-Fi - the cache of songs on your mobile will be refreshed; about 20 per cent being renewed at any one time.
Perhaps most interesting, however, was Purdham's response to our question as to whether a Windows Phone 7 app would be forthcoming from We7. Says Purdham: not until Nokia's decision to embrace WP7 as its primary smartphone platform. At least from one third party's perspective, Nokia's move has inspired some confidence in the future of WP7.
Clearly the easiest way to decide if We7 Radio Plus is to try it out - given that it's a free app it can't hurt to try.
We7 Radio Plus - Android Marketplace.