Hands-on with Piki, a music app powered by people, not algorithms


Turntable.fm fell from grace as quickly as it became the darling of the tech and music industry in 2011. Its founders and whatever is left of the team rolled out iterative features to the ailing digital DJing platform, mobile apps included. Still, the app turned out to be something of a fad, and now the team behind it is regrouping with a new project, called Piki. The team hasn’t forgotten about user-DJed music and this shows up in the new music app. 

First impressions

piki player

As with most mobile apps, it may take you just a few minutes to achieve that “Ah ha!” moment of clarity when you suddenly realize how every feature inside of the app ties together. Piki’s design has the look and feel of a music streaming app, but it’s cluttered by extra navigation bars that take up much of the screen. It’s understandable though since there are a few extra bells and whistles that other music streaming apps don’t have.

While the app might not be the prettiest looking piece of mobile software, it’s not the ugliest either. Buttons are clearly demarcated and every page is just about a tap or two away, which we’ll give Piki credit for.

Piki’s music player

piki player in action

Piki’s “Player” page is where you’ll find the music player. The core of the playback function sits inside of the “Player” tab, and within this you’ll find the song’s title, artist, and playback buttons on the top of the screen. 

Skipping music has no limits, so feel free to skip to your heart’s desire. The problem is that like with many other music streaming services you can’t actually replay a song so you’re stuck with whatever you’re listening to and what’s to come. But it does offer the ability to listen to your songs even if your phone returns to its locked screen.

What its like to listen to music on Piki

What’s interesting about Piki is that all of its music selection and recommendation lies in the hands of its community of users, which is something of a novelty considering the music services, a la Pandora and Spotify, that rely on algorithms to choose what we listen to.

piki pick a song

When you sign up for Piki, you’ll be asked to pick the artists and music that you’re interested in; from there Piki will shoulder the burden of matching your musical taste with those of other community members.

Once that’s done, Piki instantly picks out a series of DJs (other Piki users) with generally similar tastes, and like Spotify’s “Radio,” Piki starts streaming these DJs’ handpicked tracks.

The beauty of relying on a community of users, which is Turntable’s claim to fame, is that people have a better ear for recommending music than an algorithm would. On occasion a track you wouldn’t expect to get thrown into the mix gets automatically added to the queue, though, which means you have a chance to discovery new music. 

The problem with listening to music on Piki is that you’re completely restricted to whatever shows up on the “Player.” If you’re in the mood for a specific song, you’re out of luck. Piki offers the option to search for music to add to your profile, but only excerpts of these specific songs can be played back. So we should warn you: If you’re not a fan of radio, you might be better off with Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, or other music streaming services.

Piki lives or dies by the social network

Piki is an app that’s inherently social, and with the way the app is built its success really is contingent on the network effect.

The music that’s streamed on the app is powered by the songs that each user adds to their library of “Picks.” For instance if you happen to like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Piki will find other users with that musician as their “pick” and play you other, similar tracks that these users have added to their profile.

piki francis bea

Piki does offer a number of ways to get users sharing tracks to their profile. For starters, you can click on the “Me” tab that opens up your own profile page and then tap on the “plus” button on the top right hand corner of the screen. This opens up a page with a music search engine, and a Shazam-like music listening feature that identifies the music playing around you, where you can add music to your profile.

piki social buttons

Or at the very bottom-left of the “Player” page you’ll see two buttons. A Twitter-like retweet button called “Repick” adds whatever track that’s playing to your own profile. The second button is a smiley face icon, from which you can choose emoticons for leaving on a track.

Note that if you tap on the “I” icon on the right side, it slides open a page with details about that track including who shared it, what genres it has been tagged with, who’s repacked it, along with other data.

Since Piki is a social music player, itdoesn’t only look at what your taste in music is. Who you’re friends with, or who what users you’re following also affects what you end up listening to, which is why the network effect is so important. If you don’t have any friends on the app, or you haven’t gotten around to following other users, you’ll probably have a crummy listening experience.

piki filter music interests

But don’t worry. Even without friends all isn’t lost. You can still influence what Piki queues up in your Player by tapping on the sound mixer icon on top left corner of the “Player” page. Here you can customize the genres and artists that influence the type of music Piki streams for you.

Parting thoughts

Piki isn’t a live DJ-powered music player like Turntable.fm and it’s still rough around the edges, but it’s an app that’s actually a nice reprieve courtesy of your friends or other Piki users from music streaming players that runs on machines. 


With Spotify for WearOS, you no longer need your phone to stream music

A Spotify app will soon be available for download on Wear OS smartwatches. Whether you're working out or lounging at home, you'll soon be able to access and control your music straight from your wrist.

The best new music this week: Jason Isbell, Cloud Nothings, and more

Are you looking for the best new music? Each week, we scour the internet to find the most compelling new releases. On tap this week: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Cloud Nothings, Esperanza Spalding, Greta Van Fleet, and Will Oldham.

Winamp eyes big comeback in 2019 with podcast, streaming support

Classic audio player Winamp is getting a major overhaul in 2019 that's designed to bring it up-to-date and make it competitive with the likes of Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Audible, and more, all in one go.
Home Theater

The best MP3 players of 2018

Want to go for a run, but your phone is weighing you down? No worries. Can't fit your whole music library on your smartphone? Don't sweat it. Check out our list of the best MP3 players, and find one that works for you.
Social Media

These are the best ways to make an animated GIF

Love sharing GIFs with your friends and peers, but wish you could make your own? Here's how to do so in Photoshop, or using a few other methods that don't require you to shell out a premium fee with each calendar year.

Hinge's new feature wants to know who you've gone out on dates with

With its new "We Met" feature, Hinge wants to learn how your dates are going with matches in its app. That way, it can inject the information into its algorithm to provide future recommendations that better suit its users' preferences.
Social Media

Like a pocketable personal stylist, Pinterest overhauls shopping tools

Pinterest shopping just got a bit better with a trio of updates now rolling out to Pinterest. The first replaces Buyable Pins with Product Pins for more features, including knowing whether or not a product is in stock.
Smart Home

Facebook’s new Portal device can collect your data to target your ads

Facebook confirmed that its new Portal smart displays, designed to enable Messenger-enabled video calls, technically have the capability to gather data on users via the camera and mic onboard.
Social Media

YouTube is back after crashing for users around the world

It's rare to see YouTube suffer serious issues, but the site went down around the world for a period of time on October 16. It's back now, and we can confirm it's loading normally on desktop and mobile.
Social Media

Twitter has sorted out those weird notifications it was sending

Twitter started churning out weird notifications of seemingly nonsensical letters and numbers to many of its users on Tuesday morning. The bizarre incident even prompted Twitter boss Jack Dorsey to get involved.

Adobe MAX 2018: What it is, why it matters, and what to expect

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.
Home Theater

Facebook might be planning a streaming box for your TV that watches you back

Facebook is reportedly working on a piece of streaming media hardware for your living room with a built-in camera for video calls, something people may not want given the company's recent controversies.

Adobe’s craziest new tools animate photos, convert recordings to music in a click

Adobe shared a glimpse behind the scenes at what's next and the Creative Cloud future is filled with crazy A.I.-powered tools, moving stills, and animation reacting to real-time tweets.
Social Media

Over selfies and an onslaught of ads? Here's how delete your Instagram account

Despite its outstanding popularity and photo-sharing dominance, Instagram isn't for everyone. Thankfully, deleting your account is as easy as logging into the site and clicking a few buttons. Here's what you need to do.