Confirmed: Slacker Radio arrives in Canada this week


slacker-in-canada-confirmedUpdate, 7:16 PM ET: Slacker’s online radio service will launch late on Wednesday January 13th with an official announcement going out the following morning.

Here’s what we now know about the service as of its launch:

  • It will be available as a web service at www.slacker.com
  • There will be a basic tier of service that is free of charge, but this is essentially a free 30 day trial because as of launch Slacker hasn’t been able to establish an advertising model that would keep it free indefinitely in Canada
  • The paid or “Plus” service will cost $4.99 USD/month if you pay monthly, or $3.99 USD/month if you buy one year of service up front
  • The paid version includes song lyrics, a station-creation function, no advertising, unlimited “skips”, and a caching feature which stores songs on your device so you don’t need to stream them in real-time
  • The BlackBerry App will be supported, and will be available to Canadians as a version 3 release. In the U.S. version 3 won’t be available for several weeks
  • The Android app will be released shortly after launch and the iPhone/iPod Touch app as soon as Slacker can get them approved in Apple’s App Store
  • Slacker has discontinued production of their own hardware player, the G2, and has no plans to release any other hardware but is still selling their remaining inventory in the U.S. If you manage to buy one, it will work in Canada
  • The mobile apps can connect through Wi-Fi (if your device has it) or via your smartphone’s data connection though obviously your data plan will determine how much this connectivity will cost
  • If you prefer not to use your data plan, you can sync your smartphone via a USB cable to your PC or Mac
  • Song quality varies slightly depending on the platform you are using due to codec differences, but the basic standard is the equivalent of an MP3 encoded at 128 kbps (nearly CD quality to the average set of ears)
  • Slacker’s Canadian library of songs is smaller than in the U.S., but the company says that over time the two will reach parity and then grow at the same rate as new songs are added to each service simultaneously
  • Though some online forums have speculated that Canadian carriers might seek to block the Slacker app, the company is in talks with all of the major carriers and at this point they have no reason to believe that their app will be blocked by any carrier on any device
  • There will be fewer stations in Canada (60-70) than in the U.S. (over 100), partially due to the nature of licensing some forms of content – Hispanic stations and Holiday-themed stations are two examples of stations that won’t be available, however the top 50 U.S. stations will be part of the Canadian line-up
  • Slacker has partnered with Canadian music experts to create stations specifically for their Canadian audience, though no examples were given on what they might be including Canadian Rock, Canadian Country and Canadian Today’s Hits
  • Any device that supports the Slacker service will be updated to work with Canadian accounts

 I will be trying out Slacker on Wednesday when it launches and I hope to have a full review for you soon after. Some of the features of Slacker I’m most interested in are:

  • flagging songs for removal from a given station if you never want to hear it again
  • creating your own custom stations by adding individual songs, or entire artist collections
  • using the BlackBerry app to automatically update my favourite stations overnight so that I have the latest music the next day (if your BlackBerry has Wi-Fi, it will use that connection instead)

If you’re interested, checkout CNET.com’s review of the 2.0 version of the Slacker app for the BlackBerry. You can also read up on the Slacker service in the Wikipedia entry though obviously some of the info needs to be updated.

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As I write this, I am waiting for a chance to speak with Slacker’s SVP of Marketing, Jonathan Sasse, to confirm the details, but wanted to update Sync readers with the good news right away.

It appears that the Canadian expansion of the free online radio service is part of a series of announcements from the U.S.-based company which include:

  • Slacker Radio 2.0 for iPhone and iPod touch – Greater performance with wireless station caching for listening to music without a network connection
  • Slacker Radio 2.0 for Android – Enhanced functionality, including wireless station caching
  • Slacker Radio 3.0 for BlackBerry smartphones – Streamlined interface and improved performance with integrated wireless station caching
  • Slacker Radio for Palm webOS– New free Slacker Radio mobile app for Palm Pre and Palm Pixi smartphones
  • ABC Headline News – Addition of ABC News to Slacker Radio providing up-to-the minute breaking stories and reports

More details to come…

Here are some screen shots the company provided illustrating their app on 4 mobile platforms: iPhone, Android, Blackberry & Palm OS…

iphone-slacker-stationsAndroid-Slacker-NowPlayingStorm2-Slacker-NowPlayingpalm-slacker-stationtiles

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6 comments

  1. Doug

    Sounds a lot like Jango, another online radio service that allows you to pick which artists or genres you want on your station. Jango however is a free service. Why shoould we get excited over Slacker?

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    • Simon Cohen

      Hey Doug, it depends. If you’re only looking for an online radio service that you can listen to at a computer, Jango is probably the way to go. But Slacker gives you a way to reproduce this experience (with some nice extras) on portable devices like a Blackberry. The question is whether or not you think that is worth $4.99/month :-)

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  2. Ashley

    Hi Doug,
    Like Simon said, Slacker gives you more options and their service IS free. It’s only $4.99 if you want it without ad’s like regular radio has. To be fair though, they only have a few ad’s even without upgrading. I’d say it’s the extras to get excited about, but try it for yourself and see what you think.

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    • Simon Cohen

      Hey Ashley, unfortunately the ad-supported free product is only available in the U.S., at least for now. For Canada, it’s a 30-day free trial followed by a subscription.

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  3. Pingback: Slacker Radio v3 Now Working in Canada! With a Catch… | BerryReview.com »
  4. CN

    Just signed up for slacker on the iPhone this week and I am quite impressed so far. As a former last.fm subscriber I think I have found a new place to spend my 5 dollars a month. Now that last.fm has stopped service to Canadians and removed it’s app from the Canadian iTunes store I was looking for a good alternative…

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