Ed. – This article is part of our roundup featuring all of the mobile cloud music services currently available in the US. Click here for more.
When Best Buy announced their foray into the cloud music market, it came as something of a surprise. They had no significant history of providing digital media, nor did they hint at any plans to sell music online. But the promise of a multi-platform service with unlimited storage space is certainly enticing, and we put the Best Buy Music Cloud through its paces. Did it knock us out, or were we left wanting?
iOS, Android, BlackBerry
Unlimited number of songs and storage space. Songs are streamed at 128kbps by default, but with low bandwidth can drop as low as 64kbps. Free version allows only 30-second previews, $3.99/month for unlimited access.
Software Stability/Ease of Use
The mobile app for Android is highly unstable. It crashes frequently, and rarely works they way it is intended for more than a few minutes. On one occasion, we played Daft Punk’s “Face to Face,” but the BBCM app insisted that the the song was in fact by one Todd Edwards, despite the Daft Punk album art displaying directly above the erroneous title. The iPhone app is a little more stable, but is hard to find in app store; it’s labeled “My Music Anywhere My Hub” by Best Buy Europe Distribution. It’s most easily found by navigating to bestbuymusiccloud.com on mobile safari. The interface is comparable to the Android version.
Oddly enough, music stored locally on your mobile device can easily be accessed through the player’s interface; two songs we designated for offline playback while using the Amazon Cloud Player were found by Best Buy’s (and without 30-second limitation of the free version). Though we’re not sure there would ever be a time we would want to use Best Buy’s buggy player to play locally stored music, it sure is nice that it’s there. The “Now Playing” screen has a scrubber, shuffle, playback controls, a heart-shaped rating icon as well as album artwork; the album artwork is compressed at such a low resolution that it tends to look pixelated. Playlists can be created on the fly from currently playing tracks, and any playlist can be edited on the mobile app.
Once a song is played, it is automatically cached; songs can also be “locked” with a “pin” that downloads the track to your device. Cached songs are automatically replaced once the storage limit has been reached on a first-in, first-out basis. These features are only available with the premium version.
Playback would generally begin within 3-4 seconds of song selection, whether on Wi-Fi or 4G. When skipping through tracks there is even less of a delay, hinting at a large and fast-loading cache. But when tracks automatically change due to being finished, there is still a slight lag in the stream; it would have been nice if the cache extended to the next song in the queue. We liked the way the “Now Playing” screen showed us how quickly the buffer loads, even giving us a percentage of completion. Playback was fastest on the iOS app with Wi-Fi, starting playback in less than 2 seconds.
Software Stability/Ease of Use
The Mac application crashes nearly every time it’s opened. I was only able to get about 37 songs uploaded during the few minutes that the software was operational. We’re not sure if Best Buy Music Cloud matches tracks to a secret library of their own (a status line on the app read “Pre Matching _____, track 32 of 20081), but if it is, it’s no faster than a simple upload, and therefore pointless.
The Web app has login issues of its own, with the password recovery system sending out broken links that stymied our initial attempts to use the Web interface. We will report one bright spot, however: the issue was addressed very quickly by customer service, who sent us an activation code manually. The software also requires iTunes to upload music to the cloud, so if Apple’s music jukebox isn’t your bag, you’re out of luck.
Simply atrocious. After leaving the Mac application open for two days, only 37 songs had uploaded. The app spent much of that time frozen, turning our cursor into spinning beachball each time we hovered over it. This is crippling for a music locker service, because if you can’t upload music, what are you supposed to listen to?
The idea of a completely limitless storage space is an ambitious one. You have to be prepared for hardcore users to test the boundaries of what “unlimited” really means. The Play Anywhere mobile app was both simple and streamlined, and streaming speed was above average. A local cache is great, and so is being able to permanently save songs on your mobile device. But none of those things matter when you can’t actually get your music to the cloud in the first place. And that is where the Best Buy Music Cloud fails. Miserably.
Until the desktop app improves, this potentially great service will remain mediocre.
Link: Best Buy Music Cloud
For more on our mobile cloud music feature, and to read reviews of the other services, click here.
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