Music subscription services are quick becoming the teabag aisle at Tesco: so much choice and no discernible difference between what's on offer. Bloom.FM is yet another music streaming option for Apple iOS, but it effectively combines online radio with a nifty track borrowing service, giving you a potentially enormous offline music library depending on how much you stump up each month.
If you download Bloom.FM and opt for the bog-standard free service, you’ll have access to the digital radio service. You won’t actually be streaming radio channels, however: this is in the vein of Pandora, where you choose a genre and Bloom.FM selects random songs that fit. If you like a song, you can tap the honeycomb icon to bring up similar artists in the genre. It’s an old idea, but still a great way to find new awesome tracks from bands you've never heard of.
The selection of genres is impressively broad, with each genre broken down into sub-genres: for instance, Rock can be sliced down into Blues Rock, Britpop, Glam Rock, Gothic Rock, Math Rock (???), Prog Rock and well over a dozen others. So at least you won’t go hunting for Death Metal and get Rockabilly instead.
Cough up some cash each month and you’ll be given access to the meat of Bloom.FM, which is the song borrowing service. This allows you to download tracks to your iPhone or iPad, to listen to as often as you like offline. You’re limited to 20 tracks for £1, or 200 tracks for £5, but £10 a month will give you unlimited downloads - although even on a 20 tracks subscription, you can simply 'return' any of those songs to grab something new.
(Insider tip: activate your subscription through Bloom.FM's website rather than through the app, as Apple's extra charges mean you'll be forking out £1.49, £6.99 and £13.99 respectively for the paid services if you pay through iTunes).
If you come across a song you like on the radio service, you can drag it onto your phone with a simple tap of the honey drop icon. Alternatively you can search for any song, artist or album that you can think of, if you’re after something specific. Of course, services like Bloom.FM live or die on their music catalogue, and thankfully there’s a good selection of old and new tracks on offer, no matter what you’re into. For every artist that was strangely missing, we found two or three obscure ones that surprised us with their presence. The press release states there are 16 million tracks and rising, not far at all behind Spotify which is mightily impressive indeed.
Once you have your offline library, you can order it by track, album or artist and quickly organise it all into playlists. At first we thought there was no way to shuffle tracks, but we eventually found it – a quick tap on the album artwork brings up another menu which can be used to find more tracks by the artist, check out the rest of the album, share a track or shuffle/repeat your songs.
All-round production is excellent, especially the friendly, clean interface that’s filled with bees and flowers. Every track is accompanied by high-res album art which shows up on your lock screen, and sound quality when streaming is excellent (although volume levels can be a little inconsistent).
Bloom.FM is a great app for finding new artists you’ve never heard of or forgotten tracks from your past, while paying subscribers get to download from a very strong and diverse catalogue of songs. The full subscription cost stacks up month on month, the same as Spotify's Premium account, but there's always the cheaper limited-track subscriptions if you don't mind constant borrowing and returning.
You can download Bloom.FM for free from Apple's App Store for your iPhone or iPad right now.