Sony's Music Unlimited, worth the cost?

A look at how the Music Unlimited works, and how it stacks up against other online music services

Technology trends and news by Katie Gatto
December 23, 2010
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/152c

Will the latest entrant into the online music scene have Pandora and iTunes shaking in their boots? Not at the moment. 

Sony launched this week a new streaming-music service, called Music Unlimited, which is currently available in the U.K. and Ireland, will be available in the U.S. next year.  Other nations, such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and New Zealand will also get the service next year. No launch dates were given. Music Unlimited offers up a sizable library of music, roughly six million songs, about half the size of the 12 million songs in the iTunes store. And, it has many features similar to the incumbent players.

But how does it stack up against them, and other music services, based on the different plans offered?

We take a look.
The 10 Euro per-month option

Music Unlimted offers several plans, with the most expensive costing 10 Euros per month.

With this plan, much like with iTunes, you can import your existing music. There is a slight difference, however. Sony will scan your collection, and collect the basic song data. Once the scan is done, you will be able to stream your already-owned music to any Web-connected Sony product.

There are some limits to this scan. You cannot play songs that have digital-rights-management protections in place, and you cannot play songs that are not in Sony's library, even if you already own them.

And, there is one other major issue here. You may have noticed the words "Web-connected Sony product" above. That means you cannot run the service on non-Sony products.  Many will not be able to use this on their current mobile phones, tablet PCs, or other devices, not made by Sony. This seriously limits the user base of Music Unlimited.

With Spotify Premium, which which works on most major phone platforms, already out on the market, why should a user choose Sony? Certainly not for cost savings, since the products cost the same amount.

The four Euro per-month option

The less-expensive option works almost identically to Pandora, a free service. The service profiles songs you like, and creates a custom radio station, based on your tastes. The only real difference here, is that Sony is allowing users an infinite number of skips. Pandora limits paid users to six skips an hour, per station.

Given how long Pandora worked on its selection algorithm, and the level of complexity it displays, one has to wonder if Sony's algorithm will be as solid. The stations Sony created will be based on both genre, and era. Other mood-based stations will be available through a Sony service, called SensMe, which is already available on the Playstation Portable.

Again, with this plan, one runs into the device issue. Sony's Music Unlimited is limited to Sony-made devices. Pandora can run on any PC or Mac as well as on iOS, Blackberry, Palm and Android-enabled devices.

On a positive note, Music Unlimited will run on PlayStation 3 consoles, Bravia television sets, and Vaio computers. There is talk of introducing a portable device for the service, but no specifics have been released. The PlayStation 3's biggest rival, Xbox 360, has had a streaming music service since June of 2009.

Users who opt for the premium subscription plan get a 30-day Premium free trial. 

Unless you already have a lot of Sony-made devices, you will probably want to skip this service. At least, until it has a wider range of hardware offerings.

(Image from Sony)

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