Music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora have been a boon for music lovers around the world letting smartphone users listen to music on the go without having to download or buy them off the Internet. But in a country where a majority of people prefer jazzy Bollywood numbers and regional music, the Spotifys and the Pandoras of this world feel grossly inadequate. Also Read - WhatsApp may have finally found a remedy for this long-term Android iOS issue
Enter Gaana, Raaga, Saavn, Dhingana, Hungama and HindiTop— apps that offer the same kind of service as the aforementioned apps but with a whole lot of regional content. But the question is which one among them should you choose? We pit them against each other in a shootout to determine which is the best free Indian music streaming app on iOS.
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All the apps aim at providing the most number of songs spread across the widest variety of genres and Saavn, Gaana and Dhingana lead the pack in this regard. They offer more than a million songs that include the latest Bollywood songs mixed with healthy dose of regional and international music. Dhingana though slightly edges ahead with the sheer variety of music that it offers. Hungama, Raaga and HindiTop follow with a database of music which grows almost every day.
These apps try their best to provide users with the best and the fastest way to start streaming music and in this regard Dhingana and Hungama have to settle for a tie. Where Dhingana has a very simple and uncluttered UI, Hungama sports a very modern looking Flipboard-styled layout with each tile dedicated to a song, album or playlist.
Dhingana’s landing page shows all the latest songs and albums sorted according to the number of likes it has got and the music player carries forward this simplicity showing album art, playback buttons and relevant sharing and like buttons. It also offers lockscreen support wherein you can play, pause or skip songs without having to unlock your device.
Hungama, on the other hand, offers a unique gesture-based interface with the player always visible at the bottom that can be swiped up to show the full player. The player also offers two modes, a gym mode which takes away all the buttons and replaces them with only three huge buttons that can be easily touched when running on a treadmill and a sleep mode that shuts the player after a set point of time.
Gaana follows behind with a very orangish looking UI that stays true to its logo and also sports some neat looking 3D buttons at the bottom, but it loses out because of its ugly landscape mode. The app in this mode looks incomplete using only half the screen and when in the music player, the album artwork overlaps with the player’s playback buttons rendering them useless. Saavn goes with a very minimalistic UI that slightly borders on boredom and the music player only displays the song queue instead of an album art. Raaga and HindiTop with their awful UI don’t even warrant a mention in this category.
Winner: Hungama and Dhingana
This is by far the most important of category that can prove to be a make or break feature for these apps and Dhingana again comes up top here. The songs works well and sound great on 3G and a steady Wi-Fi connection, while the music player’s adaptive bitrate feature alters the quality of the song when on a 2G connection. Though the quality goes down, the song plays without buffering.
Gaana follows with decent performance on all kind of connections, but loses out because a user has to go into the settings menu to switch the audio quality to keep the music playing on slower speeds. HindiTop is a light app and the music quality is not too great, hence there is no marked difference when switching between 3G and 2G speeds.
Saavn and Hungama, on the other hand, offer some really good performance when using with Wi-Fi or 3G, but are absolutely buggy and even crashed quite a few times when on 2G. Raaga wouldn’t play any songs without logging in and the app for some reason wouldn’t let us register either.
Value-added features are always a plus point and Hungama wins hands down in this category. Apart from a radio service that the rest of the apps provide, Hungama goes a step ahead and offers music videos too. The free app though only offers videos as 25 seconds previews and full videos only become accessible when you upgrade the app by paying Rs 110. Hungama also provides a unique rewards system, wherein a user can earn coins by sharing their music tastes and inviting friends, which can then be redeemed to buy different things ranging from songs, albums to even gadgets. Saavn allows offline listening on its Pro version, a very handy feature that allows users to save their music and then lets them listen to them even when there is no data connection available. HindiTop follows with access to international Hindi radio stations from the UK, US and Australia among others courtesy of radiokhushi.com.
When everything is taken into consideration, Dhingana is the clear winner and though it has its share of faults, is overall much better than all the other apps. Gaana follows closely behind and if not for its ugly landscape mode that literally renders its music player useless and the tedious process of going into the menu to change the quality of the audio, it would have been a close tie between the two.
Final Winner: Dhingana