June 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Yahoo’s Much-Hyped Android Music App Falls Short of Expectations

yahoo play reviewYahoo broke into the Android app store twice last week with Appspot, an app for apps, and a multi-featured music player that offers some solid extra features beyond most standard music player apps, powered by Instinctiv, which offers a similar app.

Play by Yahoo Music piqued our interest with three popular smart music features: playlists driven by audio analysis and listening habits; a song ID feature to compete with apps like Shazam; and a news aggregator that fetches stories about the band you’re hearing.

The app came with its fair share of hype, but upon further examination, it mostly didn’t deliver.

We were dying to check out Smart Shuffle, which builds playlists out of the music on your phone based on audio analysis, Last.fm user data, and listening habits, although it doesn’t include like or dislike buttons.
However, Smart Shuffle whipped up the baffling combination of Curtis Mayfield, Classical Piano Preludes, Mars Volta, Earl Sweatshirt, and Yes. We actually had better luck with the Random Shuffle option, which somehow managed to play ten decent hip-hop songs in a row.
The “Others Like” option, which suggests artists similar to the one you’re listening to, gave a more reasonable output, but skewed towards songs by the same artist.

play yahoo music app review

Play's interface is simple, straightforward, and very purple.

Then there was Identify, which uses Yahoo’s fingerprinting technology and a Continuous option to ID entire radio and DJ sets, which sets it apart from apps like Shazam, which only identify one at a time. This much-touted feature left something to be desired: namely, the ability to identify songs.

While competing apps like Soundhound and Shazam easily identify tracks from pop to the hippest of indie, Play struggled to place even Michael Jackson chart-toppers.

In fact, it never successfully identified a single song during our testing. Doh.

In theory, we really like the idea of Continuous ID, because it could help recreate a great radio playlist, among other things. But obviously, without the ability to identify single songs, nailing down an entire playlist is unrealistic.

Thankfully Play has more to offer: Artist News, which pulls the latest articles about the currently-playing artist. It was the only “smart” feature that we can confidently say worked, and we’re being a little bit generous here. Most artists returned no results, and the ones that did included fewer articles than we’d hoped for. Still, we did find some interesting things to read by using it, which was nice.

Overall we really like where this app is going — but if its going to be the Genius-Shazam-Hype Machine killer that is was chalked up to be, it needs to live up to the promise of its exciting feature list. An app that incorporates smart playlists, song identification, and access to artist news would be a great a one-stop shop — but only if it performs each of these functions at least as well as the competition does. For now, we’ll stick with the unbundled versions of these functions.