Subscription music services have struggled to take off in Australia. Nokia’s offering is PC only, while Sanity’s attempt is so ludicrously overpriced and restrictive that you may as well be smoking hundred dollar notes. But – from the details outlined in the press release at least – Vodafone’s MusicStation (a collaboration with Omnifone) offering actually looks like it’s not only usable, but downright value for money.
For just $2.75 per week (or $11.95 per month), you get unlimited tracks downloaded to your mobile phone. There are no data charges for the downloads, and the downloads happen in the background, so you can queue up 1000 songs and it will just download while you walk around.
All four music labels are on board, as well as most of the local independents, for a total of over a million tracks at launch. It will be available on nine handsets at launch, but Vodafone plan on adding to that figure quickly. To start with, the MusicStation Service will be offered on the LG KU990 Viewty, Nokia 6121 classic, Nokia E65, Nokia N73, Nokia N95 8GB, Sony Ericsson C902, Sony Ericsson W880i, Sony Ericsson W890i, and the Nokia 6210 Navigator.
Of course, being a subscription service means that you don't get to keep any of the music should you stop paying your subscription, but Vodafone firmly believes that this service will work alongside their pay-per-track offering to increase sales by offering users the ability to sample more and more new music. And on the upside - if you lose your phone, you don't lose your music.
From a technical standpoint, the tracks are encoded in eAAC+, which is good, at a bitrate between 48Kbps and 64Kbps, which is not so good. Although the music is restricted to playback on your phone, where audio quality isn't really the greatest feature anyway. MusicStation itself is a Java application for your mobile.
On top of the selection of music, there's also a large emphasis on sharing music with the ability to create playlists and share them with friends, rate other people's playlists and listen to celebrity playlists as well.
Music can be downloaded to your phone's internal memory or a memory card inside the phone, and the software is intelligent enough to automatically erase the least listened to track when you exceed the amount of storage set aide for music. However, if you wish to listen to a deleted track, just queue it up in your playlist and it will be downloaded again in the background.
All in all, it sounds like a pretty good service, but we'll tell you what we really think after we've played around with it for a few days later this week.