Music streaming is the next big essential for smartphone users, and app stores are galore with such apps. Joining the bandwagon led by apps such as Wink, Saavn, and Gaana, Reliance has introduced JioBeats, which means the Jio SIM users can also stream music for free, as a part of the various services the company is offering under their welcome offer.
Reliance Jio’s launch has made the boardrooms of many telcos very nervous. What it offers is free calling – including roaming – in India and data at 4G speeds for as low as Rs 50 per GB.
In the preview offer, the users who are ready to ditch their existing service providers or want to use Jio as a second SIM for the free 4G data it provides till December 31, Reliance has a host of apps to offer including JiBeats for streaming free music, JioMags and JioXpressNews for magazine reading and news updates, JioPlay for streaming live and JioOnDemand – a video on demand service; all the above utilizing Reliance’s superfast 4G data.
Reliance is giving free internet to its new and existing users under the promotional offer and the data costs which will be applicable starting next year are also the cheapest in the market at the moment.
Coming back to JioBeats, we have had a hands-on experience of using the app, and have also pitted it against its biggest competitors. Even if you are hooked to your music streaming app and are completely used to the interface, the JiBeats has a lot that you will appreciate, maybe even over your exiting app.
Tap to launch the JioBeats app on your device and it will prompt for a sign in – login and password. But if you are already signed into any of the Reliance Jio apps, the music app will bypass the login and take you straight to the app’s user interface.
We did notice a few glitches while personalizing the app, like the screen that prompts you to select your language of choice threw a blank page a couple of times. We had to then manually go to app’s language settings and select from a list – it offers to choose between Hindi and regional languages such as Punjabi, Telegu, Tamil, Malayalam as well as Bengali.
Once you’ve configured the language, the interface is very simple to understand and is appealing enough for wanting you to play with it.
Just like a host of other music apps, the JioBeats as large size cards of albums and songs on the home screen to choose from; you can tap on your pick and start playing music instantly, the Jio 4G speeds ensure zero lag in streaming the music – at least at the moment which might change by the time Reliance as its first 100 million users on board.
Next to each song or album card is the options menu button – a vertical dotted line – which allows you to either add the song/songs to your playlist, which it will ask you to create, or simply add queue the song to play next. The list grows as you keep adding songs to the queue.
Swipe on the menu and it throws at you four more options to treat the selected song - you can download the song, visit the full family of songs that its album offers, add the song as favorite to build your own play library and lastly, read the song info – typically the duration, album, and music and vocal credits. These options also come when you swipe up from the bottom of the screen. The overall effort to play, save or download a song is minimalistic, which gives the app a good score on user interface.
But where the user interface disappoints is the lack of an option to create a playlist from the currently playing songs, which means that you cannot track all the songs you have streamed on the app from the history, unless you have added them to a playlist. JioBeats lacks this essential feature to track your music streaming history and replay previously heard songs which many other apps in competition do offer.
Apart from streaming the songs that the song cards throw at you, or the ones you specifically search for, there’s an option to let the app decide for you, based on your wider selection of genre of mood.
The radio button gives an array of compilations to pick from – such as meditation, workout, travel or classics. So when you don’t have a track in mind, you can skim through the song lists in the radio option. You might just get lucky and find a favorite song you had forgotten about.
But when you’re using a music streaming app, you want it to adapt based on your usage – like recommendations of songs. On JioBeats, we found that the song cards recommended even after being on the app for hours, at regular intervals, were random and did not decide on the basis of user behavior or popular choice.
Leading music apps such as Gaana or Saavn better understand the user’s preferences. The compilations and song recommendations seem to be better researched based on popular choice. Apart from that, the apps, including Airtel’s Wink, lets you play favorite songs while playing the radio and also allows you to visit your music streaming history. Saavn, builds a current playlist which is a compilation of all the songs you have previously streamed. So revisiting your favorite songs, unless added to a playlist, remains a challenge on then JioBeats.
The only relief here is the My Music selections which shows you a list of all the albums and songs you favorite. Otherwise, to revisit the last played songs, you have to be mindful about adding them to your playlists, which gets frustrating.
Another bizarre thing we noticed on the app is that while we were not given the option to pick English as the preferred language, the JioBeats has a decent variety of the popular English songs. But unless you actively search for the latest English songs, these are buried way deep into the clutter which can be easily missed. We did find Kayne West and Katy Perry’s latest through a search.
The other option on JioBeat that we did not harp about it the download button. We found that the download option would require multiple taps whilst it’s usually the first thing a user wants to do, especially when using free 4G data.
Reliance, if serious about competing in the music streaming app space, will have to rework the interface of the JioBeats. Usability and seamless streaming is what a user is looking for in music app, apart from his/her favorite music – which is a given.