Review: Music Now


I have to admit that any music player on any platform has an uphill struggle, given that all OS have default music playback applications and that they're all usually very functional. What's needed for a third party music player is to offer extra functions, extra playback possibilities, extra beauty. Music Now starts off looking the part but ultimately comes off looking a little amateurish, despite many, many updates in the Windows Phone Store.

Music Now's existence is a little odd, in that it's competing with the incumbent, plus the very landscape is changing around it, with Xbox Music taking over for Windows Phone 8.1 users. Yet the Unique Selling Point here is the interface - things start off well enough with a sensible, one-off permissions prompt and then it's into a tutorial carousel, highlighting the gesture-based interface:

Screenshot, Music NowScreenshot, Music Now

The gestures are intuitive enough, though the all important flick up often has to start, once Music Now's running, from within the default banner ad area at the bottom of the screen - starting a gesture from within an ad panel just seems.... wrong, somehow. The tutorial screens explain the interface well, though don't tell you how to exit the carousel and start using the application - thankfully, a simple 'back' control press is enough.

Screenshot, Music NowScreenshot, Music Now

Once underway, Music Now picked up my stored music well enough, with thumbnails that flip to cycle images and titles, though missing cover art wasn't retrieved, something which I'm used to other music players attempting in 2014. With the wealth of music information available online, filling in cover art isn't exactly hard.

The main music interface is attractive enough, with cover art shown front and centre (where available) and a pleasant EQ graphic shown where no art is present. It's at this point that I noticed the main omission from Music Now - there's no way to 'scrub'/cue a track, i.e. advance playback to a different point - something which is very much expected of any player these days. In fact, by pressing the phone's volume keys, you can use the built-in Windows Phone transport controls, but that's nothing whatsoever to do with Music Now and so is 'cheating'!

Screenshot, Music NowScreenshot, Music Now

The various gestures work as advertised, flick down to share what you're listening to with friends on Facebook or Twitter, flick right and left to switch tracks, and so on. On the main collection panorama, a 'music hub' takes the place of a main menu, offering the vital settings pane and - arguably just as crucial - the ability to tap through to use a £1 in-app-purchase to remove the ghastly banner ads. Having ads within one's private music experience is terribly jarring. 

Screenshot, Music NowScreenshot, Music Now

Effectively, think of Music Now here as a trial version and with the IAP merely converting to a commercial app. The Music Hub section seemed a little 'token' and I can only presume that the developer had/has other plans to extend it.

So a (with ads removed) fairly pleasant music experience then? Well, not really. It's incredibly easy for the screen's contents and the actual track being played to get out of step. Just switch tracks a few times and you'll get a result like the screengrab below - I was listening to Bruce Springsteen while the main interface pointedly declared Panic Room.... Gah! 

Screenshot, Music NowScreenshot, Music Now

If this was the only way of listening to music on Windows Phone 8.0/8.1 then maybe Music Now could be forgiven some of its foibles. But - again obviously - the OS contains a very functional and reliable music player. Music&Videos/Xbox Music may not have some of the gestures and the artwork may be shown in smaller form, but they're free, they're built-in and they don't go wrong!

I can see where Music Now's developer was coming from - a desire for something full-screen and totally gesture-driven. But it didn't work for me and my music collection. Comments welcome if you've had more luck with this - or any other - third party music player on Windows Phone.

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