All you can eat for your ears: hands-on with Samsung’s Music Hub

In the first week of October, Samsung announced a service that would let its Galaxy S2 handsets receive unlimited music streams for a monthly price. Released this week, we’ve had a good play and can tell you if your ears should be tuned in to the new service.

While Samsung isn’t itself a media company, it has partnered with EMI, Universal, Warner, and Sony for this project. As a result, there’s plenty of choice for finding music to listen to. From the beginning, there’s three million tracks to pick from, a number that’s large enough to please even the fussiest of customers.

Browsing is easy enough: you can either search for an artist you like, or look through one of the many options at your disposal, such as new releases, popular artists, charts, and genres. Once you find a song it can be added by hitting the “+” button or you can just add the entire album altogether.

When you’re starting out, this will add your music to the “Play Pit” playlist, the first one that’s created for you in the beginning. You can create morel playlists at any time, but forcing the “add music” section to pick a playlist will require you to hold the add button down.

Finding music is easy, although you may have some trouble finding both obscure and classical names

That action isn’t entirely obvious, and it’s just one of many unintuitive design aspects that affects the Music Hub app.

For starts, sorting your music is a chore. You can drag up the “playing” bar and scroll through your music left and right, but you’ll see each track as an album cover quickly whizzing by your finger.

If you’re after a random track, you’re out of luck. With no shuffle available, your playlist will always play back in the order it was created. Always. Samsung affords you the ability to change the order of your playlists, but it can only be done one track at a time in an interface that constantly refreshes and drags you back to the top with each save.

You can’t even preview a track before adding it to your playlist – and if you don’t like it, removing the track is handled through that same awful playlist edit screen.

Annoyingly, it’s not just a problem with a poorly designed interface, as it’s really the bugs and crashes that are the real letdown.

We hate to say it, but the app is just so prone to crashing that it stops being useful quickly. Our experience with the service was that the application stopped working no less than five times a day, some of that when we switched it on for the first time on the way to work.

At one point, Music Hub told us we had one playlist. Then it crashed, so we restarted and it showed us both playlists again. The app crashed shortly after this.

More bugs popped up when we would pause the music, with the songs often restarting when we hit play instead of returning to the part of the song we stopped at. Playlists would often go missing and then – ten minutes later – they’d just reappear.

And then the app would crash. Again and again and again. Edit a playlist and it crashes. Return from standby and it crashes. Open the app and it unbelievably crashes.

It’s sad, too, as the service itself is actually pretty cool, offering good quality music over wireless that’s fairly easy to find. But the app, that’s just a downright disastrous experience, and one that feels like it’s been rushed.

Owners of the Galaxy S2 are the only ones that can try out this service right now, as Music Hub is limited to that specific handset. Samsung has said that it will be coming out to different devices – including products in their Smart TV range – later this year. That said, even as a freebie, the current incarnation of Music Hub feels like a waste, often killing our patience with the amount of crashes we endured.

If Samsung can fix the bugs and make this a stable experience that’s easier to use, we might consider using it. Until then, we’d stick to movie music files to your phone and listening that way.