Music service Rhapsody rolled out an update to its iOS app yesterday with more editorial features, including curated playlists, social sharing and an offline playback mode.

Welcome additions for subscribers, but more interesting were the stats revealed by the company on its mobile usage.

“Over half of our members regularly use Rhapsody on their phone and 47% listen to Rhapsody on their smartphone exclusively,” said Rhapsody’s general manager for the Americas Brendan Benzing.

The first part of that isn’t a huge difference from March 2012, when Rhapsody said that smartphones were nearly half of its total listening and promised that the knowledge was “changing the way we think about product. We’re starting with mobile”.

But the thought that 47% of Rhapsody’s subscribers only ever use the service on their smartphones is new, with further implications for that mobile-first strategy.

Rhapsody is far from the only digital music service where mobile is so important. 79% of Pandora’s listening hours are on mobile devices, 80% of Indian service Saavn’s usage is mobile, while Rdio and Spotify see 80% and “more than half” of their subscribers accessing their services at least sometimes from a mobile device.

Smartphones (and to a lesser extent tablets) loom ever larger in the priorities for every digital music service when planning their roadmaps.

Also interesting in Rhapsody’s app update is the editorial curation aspect. “We’re more than a ‘search/find/play’ service. Let’s face it—that search bar can be intimidating when you can listen to virtually any song in the world,” says Benzing.

“So, we guide listeners through that massive catalog by introducing them to new music and old favorites via curated editorial programming. It’s like the difference between shopping at Nordstrom versus Costco.”

Every streaming service wants to be Nordstrom in 2013, though – albeit usually in their desktop/web services first. How such curation works well on mobile devices is one of the key design challenges this year.

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