Two weeks ago I published my experiences on Ritchie’s Room regarding the new Samsung Music Hub, which promised to usher in a new way to discover and enjoy music. At the time, there were many excellent features to be explored and used instantly on the Hub, which can be installed via the Samsung App feature, and was exclusive to the Galaxy S II.
The interface, with an array of album cover images, scrolling functions and tap commands, was quite intuitive to use. The depth of music selection was compelling, with many tracks that I thought I’d have trouble finding, popping up in the search results, much to my pleasure.
At the same time, there were some features which seemed to need some additional work. The ability to use the Music Hub on the Galaxy S II without a SIM card or on flight mode was an issue, and the caching of music tracks to playback without streaming was fraught with difficulties.
I mentioned this in my earlier post, along with a few suggestions to further improve the Music HUB service, which I see as a real game changer if the functionality is delivered as promised across multiple devices.
Fast forward two weeks, and I’m sitting down for a coffee and chat with Bruce Webb, the Applications Partner Manager for the Telco division in Samsung, who was instrumental in the design and launch of the local Music Hub app.
Bruce is excited to show me the latest iteration of the software which is due for release to the public in the next few days. The update addresses many of the points made in my previous article. Bruce says that Samsung estimate three quarters of the installed base of Galaxy S II users have downloaded the app, and they are working feverishly to ensure the user experience is flawless.
Full functionality is now available if there is a Wi-fi signal but no SIM card or 3G connection , and cached songs now play without issue, in normal mode or in flight mode.
In fact, there are a few additional features that Bruce demonstrates to me on his Galaxy S II using the updated Hub. One of them is an offline mode that retains all other functionality on the phone but blocks internet access to the Hub app, allowing you to play the locally cached playlists with no other restrictions to the handset.
Another improvement is a quick method of resetting the Music Hub app completely if any file was corrupt and is disrupting the functionality, and using the cloud to restore playlists once the App was wiped clean on the local handset storage.
The cloud plays a big part in the grand scheme of Samsung’s efforts to bring the music service to its customers. Once you are verified and registered with the Music Hub, the playlists you create reside in the servers that manage the service. Whether you use a browser, a phone or a TV, you can pick up where you left off, with the added benefit of a repository of ten thousand music videos on the Smart TV application. The upgrading of your devices has no bearing on the lists you may have built up over time; once signed in, the devices synchronise with your account and it’s a seamless experience.
Bruce sees the Samsung Music Hub as a natural evolution of the way we consume entertainment. “We’ve gone from physical media, to downloading digital files, to now streaming music”, he says. Technology has been the great disruptor, making it possible to utilise services like 3G to choose and play music that is completely customisable.
“I’ve been on a six hour trip to Tamworth, streaming music over the network through my handset the entire trip and played back through the car’s Bluetooth connection”, bruce boasts. Although most customers probably wouldn’t want to chew up their mobile data limit so frivolously, it does show how far we’ve come from having a stack of scratched, dusty CDs in the glove box.
The high point of the conversation occurs when Bruce removes a small USB dongle from his pocket and offers to update my Music Hub app to the latest version (v1.05 for those technically inclined). He certainly didn’t have a chance to withdraw the offer, and I’ve been trying out the revamped app ever since.
Knowing some of the frustrations I had with the original app, the latest version does indeed live up to the proposition of access to a massive collection of music across all genres. I held my breath while synching playlists and then playing back in various modes, and the locally stored music played back without a hitch.
Putting this offer in the context of purchasing music, whether online or on CD, is extremely compelling. For the cost of one discounted album per month, you have access to millions of songs, which can be played back instantly, and you can choose 50 albums worth of music to have on your device to be played back without streaming.
This is another step forward for Samsung, who can make a big dent in the music market with the sheer size of their mobile phone, tablets and AV installed base. Bruce also shows me the Music Hub app running on an older Samsung smartphone, with a lower resolution. The app has a couple of adjustments to take into account for the smaller screen real estate, but otherwise it’s the same experience. Likewise with tablets, Bruce explains that the layout will be different again to take advantage of the larger screen space available.
It was a very open and frank discussion with the very person who helped create the Music Hub in Australia, and it’s the sign of a progressive electronics company reaching out and engaging with the community, taking on that community feedback and including it in the development of its products and services.
As for the future, Bruce intends to roll out further updates regularly, with deeper genre subcategories to explore, expanded pre-packaged playlists and even celebrity or musician-based playlists. “It’s going to evolve constantly”, he says.
If you own a Galaxy S II and have been holding off because of what you’ve heard or read, the latest version due to be deployed in a matter of days is worth downloading and at least trialling. The Music Hub is all about music discovery, so install the latest version of the App and go on your own musical adventure – you never know what you might find.
Will you be giving the Samsung Music Hub a go? Feel free to comment below on your experiences using the latest version of the app.