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Shazam Launches Paid Version Of Its iPhone App, Imposes Limits On Free Version

Shazam Entertainment has recently launched a new, paid version of its popular music identification app for the iPhone. Shazam Encore (iTunes Link), which is now available in the App Store for $4.99, contains all of the features of the free version, while also featuring a new, speedier interface and popular music charts in the app.

As a result of launching Shazam Encore for a price, the free version, called simply Shazam, adds a limitation of only 5 music tags per month for new customers in an effort to entice them to upgrade to Shazam Encore. It is my understanding, however, that existing users of Shazam will be grandfathered into unlimited song tagging as they have been used to.

According to this post on the Wall Street Journal Online, this move to a paid business model is a direct result of the declining economy which has decreased ad-supported revenue. Previously, Shazam was supported by in-app advertising, which was enough to cover the cost of the app. With ad revenue on the decline, Shazam Entertainment needed to find another way to monetize their service to avoid discontinuing the app altogether.

The Good:

Previously, my major gripe with Shazam was that it took too long to start up. If I turned on the radio and it was at the end of a song that I wanted to identify, often Shazam wouldn’t even launch completely before the song had ended. With Shazam Encore, the app launches significantly faster and is ready to start listening in under three seconds.

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Shazam has always been pretty good at identifying just about every song I’ve thrown at it. Now, I must say that most of the music I listen too is mainstream pop, rock, and country, and therefore is most likely to be on the charts. I rarely listen to any indie or other eclectic music and I can’t comment on it’s identification ability for those types of tracks.

Also, as Patrick had blogged about back in September as a way to improve Shazam, Shazam Encore now launches in the tag mode, so one only has to launch the app and it’s ready to start listening. No more launching the app, and hunting for the “Tag” button in the top right corner. I’m sure this will be a welcome change for many of Shazam’s users.

The Bad:

As more and more of our lives are making it onto social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook, it only makes sense that Shazam would include the ability to share identified tracks with your social network friends. However, the setup of such accounts leaves much to be desired.

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The first time you try to share an identified track to your Twitter account, you actually receive a cryptic error message, saying that the app cannot contact twitter.com and to check your login settings. This process just feels so unrefined and clumsy to me, especially for an app that costs $4.99. For this price, there are plenty of rock-solid apps in the App Store with elegant and beautiful interfaces, that don’t suffer from these UI oversights.


Shazam has always been one of my top apps, and has a permanent place as the top-right most icon on my second home screen – a quick and easy place to access it at a glance on the fly. When I heard Shazam was launching a new, premium version of the app, I was naturally excited to see what it would bring.

I have to say that I’m a bit disappointed, not because the app fails to do what it’s designed to. In fact, it tags music very well and is a pretty decent app. But is that app worth $4.99? In my opinion, no. Perhaps $1.99 at the most. I find it difficult to wholeheartedly recommend a $5 novelty app that doesn’t offer any significant new features over its free sibling.

If the five-song limit, or the free app’s poor performance is an issue for you, then you may want to consider making the jump to Shazam Encore. But for those occasional users who only tag a couple songs each month, there’s little incentive to purchase Encore as the free version of Shazam will suffice just fine.

For a $5 app, I expected a lot more. What we got was a pretty-fied version of the free app, albeit with a few more polished corners, quicker performance, and a couple “premium” features (aka Top of the Charts List) tacked on. The only other major difference comes as the newly imposed limitation upon the free version to restrict its use and drive sales to Encore.

Josh’s App Rating: C+/B-

This app was independently purchased by the post author in the iPhone App Store. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

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