[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-wva60DptI&feature=player_embedded]YouTube - New Rhapsody/iPhone Feature - Coming Soon!![/ame]
At the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, the folks behind the Rhapsody streaming music service previewed the upcoming revision to its iPhone app that includes the ability to download users' songs to a cache to allow offline playback. Although the Rhapsody people are confident Apple will approve the app, there's a chance this functionality might be too close to the native iPod app for Apple's comfort.
The Rhapsody To Go subscription service from RealNetworks comes with an app that lets you stream music from the nine million tracks in its library directly from your iPhone, for a $14.99 US monthly fee. However, one consistent complaint about the app is that streaming requires WiFi or a solid 3G connection, so listening to music on the move in particular is problematic. Real apparently is listening to the users, and claims this update will be out soon. In addition to making playback more smooth, offline listening also significantly extends battery life, as using the WiFi or 3G radio is a big power draw.
Users can download songs over 3G or Wi-Fi by first creating a playlist on their device, then tapping on the new Save button that appears at the top of the list of music. Playlists with saved songs are highlighted in orange, while regular streamed playlists remain in black.The Rhapsody app will also have a “force offline" mode that will display only cached songs . This keeps you from unintentionally connecting to the network if you're trying to extend battery life, or in situations like overseas travel where 3G use would lead to big roaming charges.
Apple has been historically resistant to any apps that duplicate the functionality of native iPhone apps, so it'll remain to be seen whether they'll permit a direct competitor to iPod. There is a precedent, though: the Spotify app similarly allows offline access to cached music from its service. We'll find out soon: Rhapsody - which is soon to be spun off from Real - told WIRED that they will submit the app “within days or weeks, not months."