Now that Beats Music is finally available, it has a lot of folks wondering how it stacks up to the likes of existing services and whether it's worth making the switch. I've been taking a look at what Beats Music has to offer for the exact same reason. I've completely set aside my main streaming services, Rdio and Songza, in order to give it a fair chance. And after a few days, my decision has become harder than ever.
I've been using Beats Music in replacement of Rdio and Songza since it launched. iMore is my full time job and working from home means I've always got music playing in the background. When I'm on the go, my iPhone is also my main source of music whether in the coffee shop, in the car, or what have you. I'll start off by saying that I've only experienced about two to three hiccups with streaming issues. All of those times I was on the cellular network so I'm not quick to pass blame on the service itself. Either way, I know many people have had legitimate issues, but I'm glad to see Beats Music is attempting to make them right by extending trials.
Moving on the the actual experience of using Beats Music, we'll start with initial setup. Upon first launching the app you're asked to pick from random artists you like, don't like, and really like. The same thing goes for genres. Beats Music then loads curated content based on what you've selected. Just like any other streaming service, you can like and dislike songs from here on out. The service should then get smarter and start to cherry pick content based on your listening habits. On almost every artist page and now playing page you can also scroll down and see a list of recommended artists and songs based on your tastes, which in my experience have been awesome suggestions.
As far as curation goes, I'm extremely impressed with what Beats Music has served up in the few short days that I've been using the service. I've been using Rdio for a long time now and while it also does an excellent job, it took several weeks for the service to finally pick up on my tastes and preferences. Beats Music managed to be on par with Rdio in a matter of days, which leaves me excited to discover even more music even faster than before.
When it comes to actually using Beats Music and navigating around the app in order to find things to listen to, the layout is one of the best I've used in terms of simplicity. The tabs that run along the top make it easy for you to choose how you want to find music. From there you can drill down further. The sentence method of selecting a playlist is not only entertaining but curates some pretty damned good playlists. This is the method I'd recommend using for parties and beach days. It reminds me of Songza to a certain extent, but with less boundaries.
Over the last several months we've seen multiple streaming services such as Rdio, Spotify, and Pandora switching up their offerings and making them more accessible. For many of them, that means free web streaming and limited access to their mobile apps without having to pony up any cash. Beats Music doesn't offer any of this and doesn't pretend that it isn't a premium service. Even though other streaming services also let you vote music up and down in order to learn your preferences, they aren't creating their entire service around it. For the most part, you're on your own. Songza initially broke this barrier but Beats Music appears to have completely shattered it.
Similar to Rdio and Spotify, Beats Music also gives you the option to physically download music for offline listening. One thing I've never cared for with Spotify is that they limit the amount of music you can do this with. Rdio and Beats Music both allow you to store as much music as you like, as long as you have the space available.
Pricing for Beats Music is $9.99 a month which puts it directly in line with other competitors such as Spotify and Rdio. AT&T subscribers can get an even better deal as a family plan for $15 a month. In my opinion, other services such as iTunes Radio and Pandora aren't on demand so pricing comparisons between them probably don't have much value since they cater to different audiences.
- Well thought out design that makes discovering music not only easy, but fun
- Lots of ways to browse and sort your music which should suit almost anyone's preferences
- There's already over 20 million songs available in the Beats Music library
- Offline mode doesn't limit the amount of songs you can store on your iPhone
- As far as curation goes, Beats Music is dead on accurate 99.9% of the time
- No Mac app currently available
- Somehow MMMBop was played, and that's never okay
The bottom line
When it comes to music curation, Beats Music doesn't disappoint. The care and attention that went into balancing usability and feature set shows. Music is meant to be a personal experience and in that aspect, Beats Music has succeeded.
I'm going to give Beats Music some more time before I make a final decision, but I think I'm leaning towards finally letting go of Rdio, Mac app or not. Songza I'm still undecided about since it's only a few bucks a month and is super convenient for parties and random genres. If you've given Beats Music a trial run, let us know what you think so far. Are you thinking about ditching your current streaming service or are you sticking with it? Let me know in the comments!
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iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.