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MTN Music + Review

by September 4, 2014
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MTN Music + is MTN’s subscription based music service which it launched about a month ago, we got early access to the app and got to play with for a bit, so here are our impressions:

Setting Up:

When you run the app for the first time, it launches into three slides, which basically tells you what the app is about and shows you quickly where everything is. After dismissing the app, you are presented with the main home of the app. From that point, trying to use the any of the sections (besides the “my music section which allows you play songs from your storage) would prompt you to login or try for 30 seconds. The login screen would require your phone number, to which the app will send a code to which you will use to get in to the app after accepting the terms. It doesn’t specify that the app is restricted to MTN numbers and in fact, it will let you enter any number you want and prompt you that it has generated a code, but at I couldn’t get it to send the code to another network.

You also get the option to log in via Facebook (a method I was able to use to get in with a non-MTN sim).

The UI & UX: 

I gave the app a spin on android, an iPad and on a legacy BlackBerry device to cover all bases (the app is also available on pre-Windows Phone Nokias) and the one thing that is universally noticeable as soon as you get it running, is how well designed it is. It’s built on one of those one-web-app-for-all solutions and while I’m not usually a fan of those, this one works.

You can tell the app is actually pulling content from a website and loading stuff using ajax, but it’s all done very neatly and the app right now even in Beta is super responsive.

Once logged in, the app’s main screen defaults to a tiled arrangement starting beneath a slider, which highlights featured songs. Each tile represents a different section. The sections are as follows: Music plans, Exclusives, Latest hits, Y’hello Top 10, Collections, artists, Videos, Albums, and moods for now, there is a blank tile which promises “more fun is coming”. The sections are self-explanatory. “Mood” will play you songs that go with the mood you choose” and Y’ello Top 10 will give you the top 10 songs on the Y’ello countdown…You get the drift. The app is still in beta, so the “mood” section is only has “happy” and “sad” moods right now, that aren’t functional. I am told that the app would eventually recommend songs based on your listening habits, but I can’t confirm that right now.

On the BlackBerry and Nokia devices, the UI and sections are a bit different, with the sections displayed as a list rather than as tiles to make for a better use of the small display space. The sections are also named differently in some cases, but all the features from the android and iOS version are there.

On the top right, you will find a search button and on the opposite side there’s a slide out menu, which features Music + which is the service MTN offers featuring a catalogue of music stored online (more on how this works this later) which you can stream for free or download for N50 a pop. The subscriptions give you dedicated data to stream music on the service as well as access to certain sections like the Music + radio and “Exclusives”. They also give you a 20% discount on music purchases.

Underneath that, you get “Radio” which basically streams a curated playlist for you, music plus subscribers get the choice of the regular radio and the music plus radio, which is exclusive to, paid users.

Next is “My Music”, which basically deals with your local music collection (all the ones on your device regardless of how they got there). Beyond using this section as a regular music player for your device, you also get the option to play songs which you have saved for offline play (yes you can save songs for offline streaming later), you can also manage your favorites, purchases, gifts (you can gift and receive songs), playlists and callertunez.

There is also a “Music plans” option in the menu that basically displays your subscription options and lets you subscribe to plans, We will cover the actual plans available later in this review.

 

Playing a song on the music plus app is just like you would expect in any modern music player. The album art is automatically pulled up to fill the display. Overlaid on the cover art are buttons to add the song to your playlist, add to favorites, download and a more button which gives you additional options to set the song as your MTN callertunez, send the song to a friend, share what you are listening to and comment on the song. At the bottom you will find the regular music player play, pause, skip and other controls including shuffle and repeat.

Playback even on the “normal” setting is just a bit hollow, not enough to be annoying, but enough to notice if you are listening out for it.

I had no issues streaming music on the normal setting using both WiFi and mobile networks.

Settings 

The last option on the slide-out menu is the app’s settings. As you will expect, this menu manages your preferences. You get quite a bit of control in the Music Plus app—an offline mode—that lets you choose how you want to sync your cached songs (WiFi is on by default and mobile network off), streaming quality which offers you a “smooth” option that uses less data and is less likely to be choppy and a “normal” option which streams at a higher bitrate and sounds less hollow—at the expense of your data. You also get a sleep timer and options to share the app, automatically share what you are listening too—a feature I suspect will eventually be a nuisance on social media—options for sending feedback to the developers and updating the app. There is also an about page, with your user agreement and the introductory slides, in case you missed them at the start.

Music plans 

There are six plans on MTN Music Plus. All the plans feature free streaming and 20% discounts on purchases. The plans are as follows: a 3 day plan which gets you 30MB of streaming data for N100, a 3 day + plan which is same as the 3 day plan but gives you 50mb. A weekly plan with 150mb and a weekly + plan with 250mb for N300 and N400 respectively, and monthly and monthly + plans with cost N600 for 300mb of data and N800 for N500mb of data respectively.

Content 

MTN has long played in the entertainment circles—from sponsoring various music talent shows to, artist endorsements and even music sales off its MTN Play portal—so getting content shouldn’t be a problem. According to the MTN agreement (the one you agree to when setting up the app, MTN owns the rights to all the music on the service, but I suspect it is being licensed from somewhere (or many places at once), there is something vaguely familiar about it which I can’t place my hands on right now. In any case, it’s in beta, so it means content is still being loaded on it, but even at that, the range of what is currently available is quite impressive. You will find everything from P-square to Trybesmen, through to Phyno and the Mavins. Even classics like Fela and Alex O aren’t left out.

Even with the depth of content, the MTN Music plus app does have a content discovery problem. Besides searching, for specific songs and coincidentally bumping into them on the app’s radio, it is really difficult to stumble upon songs. The playlists in the app as it is now do not showcase the depth of its catalog. It’s hard to tell how deep the catalog is at the moment, but I was able to find about 80% of the songs I searched for. The albums aren’t properly arranged as well and searching for whole albums never really yielded complete results in my test.

How it works 

One of the questions that the average user will get around to, using the app will be how it works especially with regards with how it is possible to stream music on MTN Music Plus for cheaper than it’ll cost to do same on a regular plan. I’ll try and answer that in very basic terms. The way these things work, the content is most likely hosted at a data center here, which your app can access via a preconfigured port. So in essence, your app and the content are on a local network and not the Internet per se. One of the components of data cost of is how much is paid for wholesale internet bandwidth, take that cost out, and you can see how much cheaper internet can be.

Final Thoughts 

MTN Music + ReviewMTN might have a winner with MTN Music Plus. It’s got all the ingredients for a successful app. The app is well designed, it’s engaging, and has the potential to grow viral thanks to the social elements built in, the service is in a market that has been underserved for a while. Yes we have got services like Spinlet and Deezer making some in-roads here, but pricing and payments have been issues that they haven’t sufficiently tackled till MTN’s solution, which conveniently bills via their airtime deductions.

The cost of data to stream content also has been a hindrance to adoption of such services generally in these parts as well, but with Music plus, MTN is offering cheap data for the service along with the service (Did I hear anyone say Net Neutrality?).

The app on its own is great, add the catalogue, MTN’s user base and cheap data, and it sums up to something really formidable. I won’t be surprised if they run away with this one.

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