Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sony's Music Unlimited PS Vita Review

Okay, a bit of marketing basics here, if you launch a service called Music Unlimited, it had better damn well be unlimited. Just because telco's think they can sell you limited "unlimited broadband", don't think you can get away with that shit on a music package.

Available in two forms, Basic £3.99 and Premium £9.99 on the PS Vita, PC and now on smartphones, it purportedly offers millions of tracks. But that is far from the case. If you try the basic package, you can only listen to some of music's less popular genre streams and no new music whatsoever (except 30 second snippets, like a preview service that you have to pay to use!!!!).

That's fine, if you like film soundtracks (largely the work of Hans Zimmer, judging by my test) and the darker side of metal, punk plus some other odds and sods. But, you simply don't know if the songs you're after will be available on the cheaper service, which seems hugely unfair and rather a con. Some songs from an artist appear to play happily in Artist Channel, but their albums cut off after 30 seconds... what the hell is going on?

And, if you try anything that's a Premium feature, you are constantly nagged to get an upgrade :(.

Pay for the premium package (which costs more than a Netflix subscription, do you see the problem here Sony?) and you get access to all the latest hits, plus some more accessible premium channels (pop, rock and so on), see the full spec here. But, while the sound quality is great, the interface is sloppy with random looking buttons on the touchscreen, confusing links between places and just a trillion miles away from the simplicity of a Spotify or iTunes app.

The worst thing, and the major reason I don't think this isn't an unlimited offering, is the minute you tap the Start button to go anywhere else, the music stops. My years old iPhone can manage to play music and browse, or tweet, so why can't my shiny new Vita?  Want to drop a screenshot into a Music Unlimited review, big pause coming right up!

So, in effect the £3.99 version lets you listen to the bargain basement albums in your local HMV's 99p bin. If you actually like music you have to pay for the full £9.99 service, which is overpriced and then you can't use your Vita for anything else. For US users, the pricing is the same in dollars, and Music Unlimited recently became available in Canada, but just because it is there, doesn't mean you should use it.

Aside from the ill-advised use of the Unlimited tag, over-priced subscriptions (if the basic was free and the premium was £6.99, I'd be quite happy) there is plenty of music to enjoy but the app needs a UI professional to get involved and a software engineer to make it multitask. Fix all that and I'll renew my subscription.

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