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MusicStation: How mobile music was meant to be

I’ve picked up my MusicStation handset yesterday. I popped by and met Omnifone’s top PR chap Tim. He walked me through the service offering and kindly offered me a handset to borrow.

Only half way through Tim’s demonstration did I stop and think, ‘Er, it would have been good to QIK this,’ but, well…

I did do a video though — a small one:

Here’s me on the bus using the service (and not actually saying anything because there was an officious looking Policeman nearby who might have thought I was mad if I started talking to myself):

MusicStation, if you recall, is an end-to-end music entertainment service for mobile handsets. It’s supplied to operators by Omnifone and, to put it mildly, it’s a piece of genius.

It is everything a mobile music solution should be. It’s everything that mobile handset manufacturers — and operators — TELL you your on-handset music solution should be — only, when you get your handset home, you invariably find that operating and navigating the music functions is akin to retrieving spend nuclear rods from a reactor core. Not fun.

Enter MusicStation. Nigh on 2 million tracks. All of them are yours for (in the UK, via Vodafone — exclusively at the mo) 1.99 per week. Call it a tenner a month.

All four of the major labels support it so you can find everything from The Proclaimers to Faithless to Aerosmith to Leona Lewis. I know. I checked. I listened. That Leona’s one is quite catch, actually.

You simply browse through the music library as you would with the likes of iTunes or any other music service. You can search by free text, artist, album and so on. There’s some live charts (based on what other MusicStation users are listening to — genius) to check out if you’re needing inspiration.

Find a track you like? Click on it. It’s downloading in the background now. The download happens pretty fast — particularly since Omnifone have heavily compressed the sound file but without — and this is IMPORTANT — without losing any discernible sound quality.

Want to download a whole album? Sure thing. Click and it’s with you in a few minutes. Only like the first three songs? No problem, stick them into a playlist and you can come back to them later.

Heading to the gym? Hunt around for some pumping dance tracks. Stick’em into a special gym playlist. Enjoy.

The application dynamically controls the amount of data stored on the handset (or the memory card, more like) so that if you’re running out of space (unlikely on a N95 8GB, more possible on the Sony I am testing), then the least played tracks stored on your handset are replaced with the ones you’ve recently requested. Seemlessly.

When you want to listen to them again, no bother. No bother at all. They’re simply sucked out of the cloud back to your handset on-demand.

You’ve always got your current selection of tracks on your handset ready to play irrespective of network coverage. The application is smart. It reconnects immediately when you get into network coverage (I tested this on the tube for a lot of yesterday afternoon as I went from meeting to meeting) and sucks down what it needs.

Stop paying your weekly subscription because you run out of credit? No biggie. MusicStation is inoperable until you’re ready to reactivate. When you do, it remembers exactly where you were and reactivates the on-handset tracks for you once more.

Credit? Did you say credit? Yes indeedo. MusicStation works for both contract and pay as you go customers — a very important point given the biggest music consumers are generally teenagers — who generally use pay as you go. That’s why it’s a manageable 1.99 per week that comes off your credit and not a whopping tenner.

And don’t worry about data. All the downloads you make to MusicStation are free of charge — Vodafone won’t be hacking a pound of flesh for the data charges since Omnifone deal directly with them. This was and still is a huge issue when you’re downloading single tracks from other services (i.e. paying 3 quid for the track and another 8 quid for the data fee). All you pay with MusicStation is the 1.99 per week.

Navigating around the application is easy. I quickly got how it worked and very quickly enjoyed searching for new tracks and arsing about with playlists.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to use a mobile phone as a music player. Properly. No arsing about. No converting files and sideloading. All in the cloud. It is nothing short of brilliantly conceived for the consumer.

Absolutely phenomenal.

FINALLY I am using a handset that does both music and ‘phone stuff’ brilliantly. The Sony Ericsson’s own music offering doesn’t hold a candle to MusicStation. The fact you can reliably using MusicStation the whole day (with, what appeared to be a noticeable but ultimately benign additional draw on the battery) and use the cloud to retrieve the music you want, when you want it… geez. It’s finally here.

I thought as much when I saw MusicStation launching but its only now that I’ve had the opportunity to use it for a while that I 100% recognise this.

This is the only application I’ve ever seen that does music as it as intended to be — as it should be. Yes, the iPhone offers a seamless offering — but I’m talking about consumer, consumer, consumer handsets. This works on your bog standard every day nice looking Sony.

This whole space is going to be very exciting over the next few years, particularly with Nokia’s music offering coming shortly. I’m going to continue using MusicStation for now and see how I get on.

If you’re on Vodafone, check it out. Go to Music from Vodafone Live and you’ll see the MusicStation download if your handset is compatible. Let me know what you think of it.



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