With the news that the Nokia X6 music orientated phone has hit the 3 network, we thought we’d give the X6’s Comes With Music service an in depth look. With the iTunes store now reaching the 10 billion download mark, does Nokia’s Comes With Music service have what it takes to compete with the Cupertino giant now that it’s had over a year to settle in on the market? Read on to find out.
What is it?
Nokia’s Comes With Music service sounds like a music lovers digital dream. Pick yourself up a Comes With Music device such as the X6 or 5800 handsets and you also get yourself a licence for either 12, 18 or 24 months worth of unlimited MP3 downloads. If you’re the type of person who soaks up music like a sponge, you’re free to legally download literally hundreds and hundreds of songs and albums every day. After your Comes With Music subscription ends, they’re yours to keep, meaning you are free to listen to the tracks for all eternity.
There are a number of pertinent catches however. All MP3s downloaded with Comes With Music are fiercely managed by DRM. This means that your songs are tied only to your handset and synced PC or Mac. You cant burn any MP3s to a CD or share them with pals, nor can they be transferred to any other MP3 device. Also, once your subscription runs out, to renew it and grab new tracks you have to buy a brand new Comes With Music device to re-activate it, or pay a per-song fee as with iTunes. Ouch.
That said, a year or two’s worth of unlimited downloads allows for a pretty ridiculous amount of tracks to be grabbed, and Nokia’s Comes With Music store is comprehensive enough to cater for most tastes. My obscure mid-90’s indie desires were more than satisfied, personally for me giving Comes With Music a “one-over” rivals such as eMusic and 7 Digital. Major labels such as Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner are all represented, with over 6 million tracks available making it roughly the same size as the Spotify library. Sure, there are some glaring omissions, such as tracks from the Beatles and Led Zepplin, but you’ll be hard pressed to (legally) download those artists anywhere else anyway.
PC download client and store
Visually, the Comes With Music store and Nokia Ovi Player software will be very familiar to anyone who has used iTunes before. An uncluttered and chunky top toolbar gives you access to search, store, library and media playing functions. A large portion of the screen is made up of the music store itself, and an adjustable download queue sits snugly at the bottom. The homepage has an interactive banner with tabbed artists currently in high demand, and is updated regularly enough to stay on top of any musical news. Within each individual music genre page this banner also features a nifty Music Wall feature, which has scrollable thumbnails of loads of key albums, which is great for a quick impulse download with your unlimited free music.
Your personal library of downloaded tracks is very nicely presented. Lots of big album pictures to browse through, as well as list views and search parameters such as genre and recent downloads. Syncing with your Comes With Music device is a relatively painless affair, though the odd connection error did occur.
It’s all relatively intuitive, though some areas that are ripe for, say, hotlinking to recommended or similar artists are lacking in interactivity, and are a missed opportunity by Nokia to entice users to delve deeper into the music catalogue. Likewise, recommended artist lists were a little underdeveloped for my liking, and were usually quite far off the mark in terms of suggesting songs appropriate to my tastes, and there is very little commentary on albums, such as reviews. Also, while track download speeds are consistently as fast as iTunes, browsing the store can be a little laborious due to slow page load speeds.
Comes With Music’s unique selling point is its unlimited downloads. It makes it the perfect tool for taking a chance on new music and grabbing something that perhaps you’d overlook if it had a price tag attatched. The store and download client itself could do with some optimising, and it would be nice to have some more flexibility in terms of the DRM on the tracks themselves, but overall it’s one of the slickest mobile music options we’ve seen this side of iTunes.
By Gerald Lynch | February 25th, 2010