Jukeboxer for iPhone makes of a game of music discovery, voice filters included

The iPhone game market is maturing to a point of saturation. There are no new ideas, just variations on those tried and true.  Jukeboxer for iPhone, according to its Toronto-based creators, manages to qualify as both a game and a music discovery app.

“Jukeboxer is a new way to interact with your music,” says Syrp’s Andrew Norris, co-founder of the four-man dev team behind Jukeboxer. “We’ve loved music all our lives,” but found the discovery experience frustrating at best and downright awful at worst.

The app accesses iTunes’ API to provide 30-second clips of your favourite songs, segmented into various playlists. You can challenge Facebook friends or random strangers, turn-by-turn, to attempt to replicate the voices of your favourite singers. Add a filter — my favourite is Alien– and send it over to your friend for evaluation. If he or she guesses right out of a total six songs, coins are dished, belts are lofted and the chaos continues.

It’s an inventive way to waste a few minutes and, as we’ve learned from our experience waiting in line, or for the bus, there’s plenty of time to be wasted. But Norris and partner Aaron Glazer insist that the app is about more than applying filters to screeching renditions of Mariah Carey’s falsetto. “We’re trying to make a fun and open experience. We have a dedicated user base who plays every day,” indicating that the game has been tremendously well received.

Available for free, Jukeboxer uses in-app currency to further users’ progress, but players can and will enjoy the game without spending a penny. The team is self-funded, a rarity for a polished release like this, and have been working for months tweaking and optimizing the game and its mechanics. For example, when singing into your phone is not appropriate, users can judge a bout between two strangers; voting on which rendition of a song they like better will earn coins that can be used to pay for upgrades such as an ad-free Pro version, additional voice filters and more.

“We wanted to put Jukeboxer on a platform that is widespread, where a small group [of developers] can accomplish a large project.” iOS, and specifically the iPhone, was their best bet. “The iPhone provides a better hand-held, personal experience, the iTunes sales model is fantastic.”

As for Toronto as a development hub? Norris and Glazer think that there is great opportunity here for mobile devs, but there is an absence of active Accelerators and peer support groups. While access to venture capital is available, it’s far easier to come by in New York or San Francisco. “There are lots of talented designers and developers in Toronto,” says Norris. “There are lots of ideas, plenty of people to answer questions.” But due to its size, or whatever the reason, “it’s often harder to pursue an idea to completion [here].” There are avenues for small amounts of funding such as Jolt, a brainchild of MaRS, but the choices are limited.

Jukeboxer is an ambitious app, though its focus on in-app items is more a sign of the mobile environment than any fault of the creators themselves. The team is pursuing funding so it can grow Jukeboxer as a platform and bring it to other operating systems. The first stop is iPad, a natural extension of the smaller-screen iPhone. They’re also working on adding new content daily, casting a broad net of song clips from artists like Justin Bieber to Santigold.

The app, smartly, relies on Facebook to match up existing friends to play against, but there’s always someone with whom you can rock out. The leaderboard, at least at this early stage in the game, skews female, but we’d expect it to even out over time.

Jukeboxer is a great way to spend a few minutes, and a perfect example of an app that compresses four years of evolving mobile tastes into one hybrid experience.

Download Jukeboxer for iPhone.