When it comes to streaming response times and reliability the picture does become clearer. Rdio cannot match Spotify's essentially instant scanning through tracks (there is a fractional delay), but we found it streamed more reliably when on the move. Setting both Spotify and Rdio to their highest audio quality, the latter did not stutter once in areas of good signal. On the same handset and network Spotify stuttered several times. Whether this is chance or connected to the faster offline download times of Rdio (faster servers?) is open to debate.
15 million tracks are more than you are ever likely to listen to in your lifetime, but we did notice Rdio is particularly strong with indie and mainstream content. Having just launched in the UK weeks ago, Rdio is still signing off international agreements which gives Spotify a slight edge, though we doubt this will last long. Rdio's seven day free trial is a wise idea for those with very specific listening tastes.
Should you change?
We suspect Rdio's real motivation in the UK is not to convert existing Spotify subscribers, but to appeal to the majority of listeners who have yet to embrace streaming music. This is wise as the service, while a true competitor for Spotify, has enough pros and cons by comparison that in its current guise it is unlikely to cause mass defections. On the surface though Rdio is more appealing to casual consumers as it embraces existing music collections with far more grace and does not force users down a road of messy, manually sorted playlists. Rdio's mobile apps are also every bit a match for its more famous rival with more intuitive UIs and they seem to be more regularly updated.
On the flip side Spotify still has the deeper social network integration and its steadily growing apps and high profile partners will appeal to a world that is currently app obsessed. Perhaps the biggest complement to say then is Rdio can stand toe-to-toe with Spotify and give as good as it gets. Rdio brings genuine choice to the UK streaming audio sector and that can only be a good thing.
Rdio is every bit as good as Spotify and its browser client, more refined mobile apps, Facebook independence and acceptance of existing music collections with smart, automated sorting will win it a legion of fans. The trouble for Rdio will be converting Spotify diehards as it may not offer quite enough to convince them to jump ship and abandon all those meticulously created playlists. For those looking to try music streaming for the first time, however, the decision is now much tougher and that is high praise indeed. In fact right now if we were starting from a clean slate we'd be tempted to choose Rdio.