Last week Nokia rolled out Nokia Music for the Lumia 710 and Lumia 900 devices here in the US. Nokia Music was a Lumia exclusive service released with the Lumia 800 outside the US, but it took almost a year to get it up and running here. I have been using it on both my Nokia Lumia 900 and Nokia N9 MeeGo device (yes, it runs on the N9 here in the US now too) since the release and have removed Spotify from both of these devices as this new FREE meets MY mobile music listening needs. Let's take an in-depth look at Nokia Music on the Lumia 900 and if you have a Lumia 900 or 710 I highly recommend you give it a try, it won't cost you anything but your time.
I do not have a large personal music collection and have a rather eclectic taste in music where I listen to classic rock, Christian, classical, jazz, and country. It really depends on what I am doing and what kind of mood I am in. I have some favorite artists, but am open to listening to new artists as well so I prefer the "radio" model of listening where lots of different content is provided on a random basis to my devices. Thus, I am a perfect candidate for something like Nokia Music and I understand that some people prefer to listen to their own playlists and specific artists. There are lots of choices for all of us and so far I think Nokia Music was made just for people like me.
The Nokia Mix Radio functionality is provided by Nokia by real people and not machines. There is a team at Nokia that creates the unique Mix Radio playlists from approximately 17 million songs. There are AT&T exclusive mixes, featured mixes, top chart mixes, exercise mixes, mood-based mixes, celebrity mixes, and more. Nokia reports there are over 150 playlists available. You can even enter in your favorite artists and have Nokia Music develop custom mixes. I am a big fan of Sanctus Real and have a custom mix that is based on their sound. Nokia Music shows your recent mixes and lets you quickly access them later. Mixes can also be pinned to your Start screen for easy access and these Live Tiles actually do show album art and status of the mix.
Another major benefit of the Nokia Music service and Mix Radio is the ability to download music for listening to without a connection. Nokia Music supports offline download of music for a period of time from three to four hours of playback (I am trying to find out an official length allowed by the service). This is great for flights or other times when you do not have an active connection. If you need more music than this for offline usage then you can always switch to listening to any of your own music stored on your device or enjoy music you purchased through the Nokia Store.
While the real strength of discovery and exploration of music is found in Nokia Mix Radio, some people want to listen to their own music. Nokia brings in access to music stored on your device so you can use Nokia Music to select and play songs without having to use the Music utility found in Windows Phone. On the Nokia N9, your own music is found in the Music app while the Music Store app is where you go to listen to "radio" channels and purchase music.
When you tap My Music from within Nokia Music you will see all of the music stored on your device assembled in pages for artists, albums, songs, genres, and playlists. I cannot find any way to create a playlist on my Lumia 900 and the playlists screen instructs me to connect to a PC for playlists. This module functions much like the Windows Phone Music utility with controls for play, pause, forward, backward, shuffle, and repeat. Music controls can be accessed from above the lock screen as well. Unlike the current Windows Phone utility, you can also share what you are listening to with your social network (Windows Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook), via email, or via SMS. I like this ability to share with my social networks and hope Microsoft adds that to Windows Phone, something even the Zune HD has in place.
If there is song you really enjoy and want to use it on other devices or make sure it is always in your collection then you can purchase songs from the store. I see that most individual songs are $1.29 each, but there are full album prices that reduce the per song price quite a bit. For example, I see one album at $9.90 that comes with 14 songs (71 cents per song). It would be great to see album and song specials, similar to what Amazon provides.
My wife and I have been reliving our youth when we never went to concerts and have seen Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger, Van Halen, Aerosmith, and Weird Al Yankovic over the last year. Nokia has a Gigs page within Nokia Music that uses your location to help you find local live performances. You can even purchase tickets through various services, such as Songkick. Gigs can also be pinned to the Start screen or shared with your social networks and friends.
I realize this is the first release here in the US and the service is free, but I do have a couple of features I would like to see added. I like that my Zune Pass music service shows the album art of the last artist I was listening to on my Live Tile as it adds a bit of personalization and character to my Start screen. I want Nokia to add this type of Live Tile functionality as well since right now all I see is a musical note.
The Bing Music Search works well for identifying songs and letting me download from the Zune Marketplace, but I would like to see the option to choose the Nokia Music store as well. Android has support for multiple media providers like this and with the deep Microsoft and Nokia partnership I hope we see more integration of Nokia services in the Windows Phone experience.
Do you have other recommended improvements for the service?