Sony's hoping to pique your qriocity (sorry) with it's new streaming music service this week, by offering a free thirty day trial, tons of different streaming options and a library of over six million songs from the four major record label and most everyone they distribute. We spent the day with the service yesterday, clicking through its abundance, navigating through its complications and attempting to use its variety of services.
First the good stuff: The service is only $10 a month and has all the features we've grown used to like a recommendation engine, multiple-device streaming and more. However, it still doesn't have a solid mobile distribution, meaning it can't be streamed to smart phones or the like, but it will be streamed to PSPs in the near future, if you happen to have a WiFi signal and, uh, still own a PSP.
Sony is quick to stress this isn't like their failed iTunes-alike, Connect. This is a totally different, streaming only service. It's not a bad time to launch Qriocity, even if it is a tongue-twisting crap pile of a name. Apple's iTunes is quickly showing its dated design by hogging system resources and hard drive space.
So how does it actually work on the consumer end?
Surprisingly, it's okay. There is the usual set of stations to choose from in streaming, including a Local Top 100, which, as you would expect, only includes the same pop dribble you'll get everywhere else. The first three songs we heard were Bruno Mars, Mike Posner and Katy Perry. It has the same system of liking and disliking tracks as Pandora, so logically things would get better as you listened to it more. The decade channels are all solid, especially the old ones, considering the four major labels had the bulk of the music content from the era. Before you ask, no, you can't stream the Beatles.
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You can also pick a channel based on your mood, which is weird and creepy, and doesn't work particularly well. For instance, when we picked the "Extreme" channel, we were delivered Jackyl's "I Could Never Touch You Like You Do," which might be extreme to grandma, but it's far from what we were expecting. Under "Emotional," however, we were fed "Don't Stop Believin'" from the Glee Club. If the emotion they were looking for was rage, they got it.
But nobody really needs a new streaming service, although, Sony's $3.99/month for station-like streaming isn't half bad. What people care about right now, is the $10 a month cloud storage.
First off: the music sync option. This lets you sync your iTunes library to you Qriocity account, which is totally awesome in theory -- save for the fact it's a Windows only option. A Mac version is in the works but wasn't available for testing on launch. Because of that, we're a little unclear as to how it works. We're assuming you'll get access to songs that are already in the Qriocity library, not your entire library.
The album streaming service is pretty solid, the quality seems good and the interface isn't overly confusing. Songs load quickly and the recommendation system works terribly at the moment. It tried recommending Audioslave when we searched for Pavement (which is not currently in the library), so it's far from perfect. In fact, when we streamed the new Mogwai record, we didn't even get any recommendations at all. Surprisingly, The Warlock Pinchers' Deadly Kung Fu Action was on there -- well, half of it anyway. We're not sure where the rest of the album is, but we do like the fact that under the "More like this Album" tab is the South German Philharmonic Orchestra's Vivaldi flute concertos.
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So how does it stack up against the likes of Rhapsody? It's pretty much identical, which is likely why Sony is pushing the brand focus as far as it is. Yes, you can play this on your PS3 or your Internet enabled TV, but without mobile access, it's dead before it starts. If you do check it out on the PS3 (which we did), it looks terrible. The interface is a bumbled mess of '90s UI design, complete with inappropriate sound effects for every move you make. Worse still, the album covers aren't scaled properly for big-screen viewing, meaning you end up with a horribly pixelated mess on your TV when you're playing something. (Sorry, Nancy Sinatra, but you look like crap when you're blown out by 500 percent.)
It has enough positive things about it that it will probably survive, but it'll need to work quickly and move into the mobile market sooner rather than later if they want people to stick around for longer than the free thirty-day trial (and just a warning, you have to manually cancel the auto-renewal setting in the account management setting). Sony is counting on PS3 owners to give a shit about this, but we're not seeing the appeal yet.