Mobile Cloud Music Showdown – Subscription Services, 3rd Place: MOG
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.
With humble beginnings as a music blog (founded in 2005), MOG has since evolved into a full-fledged licensed music streaming service. Their founder is a former Gracenote CEO, and legendary producer Rick Rubin sits on their board of directors. While its safe to say that the people at MOG know a thing or two about music, how does that translate into their nascent streaming music service? We’ll do our best to find out.
11 million 320 kbps DRM-free MP3s
The Shuffle Test
Ed.- we took 10 songs shuffled from our iTunes library and checked how many each service had.
9/10 – Roxy Music – 2HB (Y), Big Star – Life Is White (Y), Sufjan Stevens – Jacksonville (N), The National – Slow Show (Y), Daft Punk – Da Funk (Y), Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter (Y), Big Punisher – Dream Shatterer (Y), John Legend – It Don’t Have to Change (Y), Desaparecidos – The Happiest Place on Earth (Y), The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die (Y)
The MOG software was mostly stable, and usually only lagged when first booting up the app. Playlists occasionally took an absurdly long time to load on the mobile app, but we liked how they could be selected, saved and accessed later (even from the Web app). The occasional lags and hiccups were not frequent enough to be frustrating, but were an annoyance we could have easily done without.
We were especially disappointed with the stability of the Download queue, which seemed to have trouble keeping track of the songs we selected for offline playback (more on this later).
Software (User Interface)
Upon first glance, it’s clear that the designers of MOG’s mobile apps put some effort into the design aesthetic. The initial boot screen features an artsy-looking squiggle graphic, and once the home screen loads, recently played album art provides the background image (this option must be turned on in settings). We also loved that album art thumbnails were prominent in most screens that listed music. The home screen featured standard Search, Browse, Charts, New Releases, Favorites and Downloads buttons.
Unlike Grooveshark and Napster, MOG’s interface is designed to facilitate finding and saving albums for those with archival tendencies. The new Web app has a clean interface but is missing the entire playlists tab (and is also in beta). The occasional redundancies we encountered (Favorites, New Releases and Charts links from the top menu are repeated in “Browse”) were unnecessary, for sure, but didn’t take away from the user experience.
While the playback quality and stability on MOG was inconsistent, the variations stemmed from the options that MOG provides its users. We liked that users could tweak the streaming settings depending on their wants and needs. Those who crave quality and audio clarity can opt to select a higher quality stream, and those who want a consistently speedy connection and streaming experience can select a lower quality stream. Bitrates varied from 64-320kbps, and the buffer was understandably strained over a cellular connection when using the highest quality.
Recommendations (Finding New Music)
This is one area where MOG’s history as a music blog really makes it stand out from the pack. MOG has a team of editors who spend their days blogging about music at MOG.com, and their main job is to tell you what new music to listen to. “Editor’s picks,” lists a selection of 30 albums curated by MOG’s editors, and it’s updated regularly.
The “Featured Playlists” were also interesting; they feature some playlists curated by artists, but most of them come from users. It would have been nice to see a few words from the artist along with their selections, at the very least an introduction, if not a full track-by-track walkthrough. Though we were impressed that there was seemingly no limit to the size and scope of the artists’ playlists, a case proven by the 140-track monster curated by Girl Talk’s Gregg Gillis. But unlike the Web app, it’s quite difficult to differentiate the artist playlists from the user playlists in the mobile app. There are short blurbs by MOG editors that prepend playlists on the Web, but they were absent on the mobile app.
The “Charts” list MOG’s top 50 songs, albums and artists, and even has a shortcut button to “play all top 50 songs.” It’s the equivalent of a top 40 internet radio station, sans commercials and annoying repeats. “New Releases” features 30 new releases shown in no discernible order.
Tracks in MOG’s library are downloadable to multiple mobile devices (with a Primo plan), with no limitations other than the available space on your local device. Unfortunately, we found the download feature to pretty unreliable. Designed to work in the background while performing other tasks within the app, we found backgrounding to make the download feature even more unreliable. In one instance on the Android app, we added 3 albums to the queue to download for offline playback. Initially, they showed each download’s progress, but when we started to navigate the app and then returned to the “Downloads” section, not only were the songs not downloaded, they were no longer even in the pending downloads. We had a bit more success with the iOS app; it was a bit more stable but no more successful, auto-pausing the downloading tracks when it sensed that the app is was about to crash or freeze up.
Basic $4.99/mo, Primo $9.99/mo (adds mobile access)
MOG is an excellent music streaming service. It has high quality options for finding new music, a clean, aesthetically pleasing interface, and a solid library. Their software still needs work; a few bugs remain to work out, especially the missing downloads in the Android app. The service is also definitely more well-suited for those who collect music by the album, and like to create an archive of music rather than spontaneously create playlists.
We also would have appreciated some sort of social integration, which is by far the best way to discover new music. But where they fall short in the social network, MOG makes up for with their staff. Their editors do the work that your friends would otherwise do, culling their favorite tracks from the library of millions of songs, promoting new music as well as introducing users to new subgenres and musical movements.
The distance between No. 3, 4 and 5 on our list was minuscule; any one of them could have been in any of those spots. But ultimately, we had to choose, and MOG takes the No. 3 spot because of their recommendations, price and options.
For more on our mobile cloud music feature, and to read reviews of the other services, click here.