| | 01-27-2013, 12:31 PM #1
On two recent cross-county flights I had the opportunity to experience the best and the worst of two music services on my Windows 8 phone.The experience has changed how I will prepare for travel in the future.
Up until the first flight, I had been a fan of the XboxMusic service in Windows Phone 8. I loved how my collection of music on my home PC had been shared to the cloud and then populated my Lumia 920 without needing to do a thing. Actually, I am still a fan of this service. As many others do, I believe the Xbox Music user interface on the PC needs improvement and the musicmatching process needs fine tuning. I still like the service overall, it is just after my airborne experience I view the service with a bit more jaundice.
I usually drive through the large urban area I live in withmy Lumia plugged into my car audio system and have had no issues whatsoever with Xbox Music playing either just random songs from my collection, playlists I’ve created or Smart DJ playlists. Because of the success of this experience I had only placed about a dozen current favorite songs directly into the phone memory. I felt a sense of pride that I hadn’t had to stuff my phone’s memory with my music collection as I had with earlier devices.
Then I got on the plane.
The crucial flaw in my experience was the fact that the inflight Wi-Fi service was not functioning on the particular plane I was stuck on for nearly 5 hours. (I know inflight Wi-Fi is relatively new and is notuniversal and is way too expensive, but I have certainly grown to expect it tobe there.) It was when I started Xbox Music and watched as it reported it couldn’t play song after song after song that a music application that relied on some type of broadcast signal was not a complete solution. It was certainly able to play the handful of songs stored on the phone, but I wished there was a filter setting in the app that would allow me to choose the source of music tobe played back: on device, cloud only, or mixture.
I listened to the handful of songs a couple of times, looked at the handful of pictures I’d stored on the phone, and then played a couple of games that weren’t cloud based (sorry Wordament) and then put the phone away for the rest of the flight. My companion travelling device just wasn’t much of a companion for much of that day.
Preparing for the return flight I wasn’t about to rely onthe inflight Wi-Fi being available. I had read a thing or two about Nokia Music and decided to give it a try. I installed the app and immediately liked the look and feel of it. I prowled through the mix section and found a couple of playlists that looked promising. This is where Nokia Music really shines. The option to download these playlists for off line use is brilliant. I did so. It took just a few minutes and I was already feeling better that I had at least acouple of hours of music now available to me instead of just a few minutes.
When my return flight was in the air I attempted to connectto the inflight Wi-Fi. It worked. I certainly wanted to listen to the playlistsI downloaded but I also wanted to experiment with the cloud-based Nokia Musicand Xbox Music now that I could. I set Nokia Music to playback a mix that I hadn’t downloaded. It performed flawlessly. The sound quality (given the airplane noise and the average quality of my earphones) was acceptable and I particularly liked the fact that there is an equalizer available. I boosted the bass a bit. I switched playback between my downloaded songs and the cloud and back again and the program never fumbled or even stuttered.
While playing cloud based songs, there were two that I hadn’t heard before but really liked. I selected the purchase option and downloaded these tunes. I was curious about how Nokia Music treated thesedownloads. Would they be available only to Nokia Music? I switched to Xbox Music and was delighted to find these two songs were available for playback onthat app as well. If you’ve been collecting digital music long enough you will know why this was a concern. I’ve had too many songs in too many proprietary music formats to trust that my music is there without checking.
At this point I decided to give Xbox Music an in-flight test. I set it to just start playback of my entire collection, without using myown or Smart DJ playlists. The app worked very well but not flawlessly. Therewere some hesitations here. There were some gaps of several seconds betweensongs at times and one song experienced several pauses during playback. I was not able to determine if this was due to some problem with Xbox Music or if itwas a problem with the Wi-Fi service. At the time this happened, the plane wasover the Rocky Mountains. It may not have been a fair comparison because ofoutside factors, but Nokia Music did not have long pauses between tunes or anypauses during playback.
I will need to fly long distances a few more times thisyear. I certainly want my Lumia 920 with me. I still like not stuffing all ofmy music into the phone, so I will certainly prepare for the flights bydownloading some mixes from Nokia Music. If the inflight Wi-Fi is available Iwill give Xbox Music another try as well. At least now I know I don’t need torely on that expensive and not always available inflight Wi-Fi to keep meentertained.