Audio-sharing platform SoundCloud has been working on growing its audience of listeners (as opposed to content creators) over the past couple of years. It started with a website redesign and today, that laser focus on the listener is coming to the iOS app.
The app was previously a “Swiss Army knife,” says Mustafa Sezgin, SoundCloud’s Director of Mobile Engineering. It used to be a tool for both creators and consumers of audio, with the ability to do things like upload audio straight from the app. Now, with simpler navigation, cleaner profile pages and a new interface that’s light on buttons, heavy on gestures, it’s more of a “lean back and enjoy experience,” Sezgin explains.
Indeed, as a SoundCloud listener, the new app is a joy to use. Searching for tracks and playlists is a breeze, and the listening screen is a thing of beauty.
Sezgin’s team has managed to do away almost entirely with the standard transport controls, like Play, Pause, Fast Forward and Rewind, replacing them with gestures. You drag the waveform left and right to skip backwards and forwards, and swipe to move between tracks in a playlist. Tapping the screen pauses the audio, and only when a track is paused will you see a traditional ‘Play’ button.
While creators won’t find as much day-to-day value in the new app as in previous versions, Sezgin says the value for creators is in the expanded audience the simplified app can potentially give them. It’s true that for recording and uploading on the go, there are third-party apps that are more than capable of the task than SoundCloud’s own app ever was; the company itself recommends Retronyms’ Audiocopy iOS app. Still, as a creator, I’d love to be able to browse my detailed listening stats on the move from an app.
The relationship between SoundCloud and third-party developers was called into question this week when the team behind Soundflake, an app that acted as an alternative interface for SoundCloud (and one we praised when we reviewed it), announced that SoundCloud had asked them to withdraw the app permanently.
Sezgin says that while SoundCloud admires the work of the Soundflake team, the app’s core functionality broke the Terms of Service of the SoundCloud API agreement. Similar to Twitter’s approach, SoundCloud is heavily restricting third-party developers to ensure it stays in control of the core user experience as much as possible.