While Sony, Samsung and Microsoft battle it out in the streaming media arena, one of Australia’s largest retailers of music has decided to join in.
Launched today, Australians can now try out “Now”, a new service designed to bring another library of music to your ears without needing to fork out for every disc under the sun.
The first month of the beta is free for everyone, though after this initial trial period, customers will have to fork out for either a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription to listen to the music.
Playing with it today, we found the experience responsive and easy to use. No extra plugins are required and it’s nice to see JB not using Flash for its service. In fact, the service runs natively in a web browser, so you only need to log in.
Once you start trying it out, you’ll find five sections to explore, a search bar, and a music play-bar sitting on the bottom of your browser at all times gradually going through your selections.
The search bar is exactly what it sounds like: a search box allowing you to go through the JB Hi-Fi Now library and find tracks.
“What’s Hot” details featured music choices, recommendations, and chart-toppers, making it easy to find what’s popular right now.
“My music” is the music you’ve added to your library so far, with an extra tab suggesting other artists that are similar to what you’ve selected, in case you feel like exploring.
“Mixes” is an interesting option allowing you to make your own digital streaming mix-tape, complete with a customisable tape design to make it well and truly yours. Like something out of the 80s, the Mixes section is a nice way of making playlists look unique. You can also look up mix-tapes from other users, as well as check out mixes compiled by JB’s own staff.
“Crowd” is Now’s way of showing you what other users are searching up, loading up a map of user names and profile pictures and letting you peek at the music tastes of everyone else. You can also sort by gender, age, and location, making it an interesting way of looking up people.
Possibly the most interesting section Now has to offer is “Discover”, breaking up music into icon-based genres and sub-genres, all the while offering albums for you to try out. While there can be some overlap, it’s an interesting way of letting customers try music types they’ve probably never heard of or have wanted to try for ages.
You can always switch to a list if the icons are too much for you, but with a layout like this, we’d stick with the squares. It’s just more fun.
Overall, the library isn’t too bad for a launch title. JB claims millions of tracks available through the 100,000 or so artists, although we were able to find albums missing that other streaming services had. In playback, you can easily move albums across the left and right to change the order of your playlist easily.
Surprisingly, Now lacks the ability to run on a mobile platform. While the beta has launched this week, JB won’t be releasing any mobile apps to access the system until next year, meaning the only customers able to try it out have to do so on a desktop, notebook, or tablet.
Even though the system uses the universally friendly HTML5, any mobile access the service will be greeted with “Sorry. JB Hi-Fi Now is not available on mobile phones.”
Tablets can see the service, although it’s clear that the design has larger screens in mind, with buttons and options not quite fitting to where they should be.
We’re honestly not sure how many people use their web browsers to listen to music, especially since other streaming music services are all available on mobile platforms.
Right now, JB Hi-Fi is a good concept with some nice interface designs, although we’d seriously like to see the platform work on something that won’t tie us to our desks.