Prizefight (week of August 04)
mSpot vs. MP3tunes
mSpot vs. MP3tunes
One solution is to find a way to upload your music collection to the cloud, and stream songs back down to your phone on demand. It's a workaround that online service MP3tunes has promoted for years, predicting the mobile memory crunch long before the iPhone era. Newcomer mSpot offers a similar service, with a more modern look and a slick Android app. Both services offer a free plan to new users, along with paid tiers for additional storage.
The judges for this Prizefight don't shy away from telling you what they think about the software, Webware, and apps required to test these two services. So, without further ado, let's stream some music.
Round 1: Interface and designRound 1: We start off by checking out the layout, look, and feel of each service. The MP3tunes browser service has been around since 2005, and its design feels a little stuck in the past. The mSpot site, on the other hand, has a minimal, modern look. We also account for the design of any necessary software or mobile apps.
|mSpot||2Inarguably, the online interface for mSpot needs work. The sorting is mediocre at best, and it's visually uninspiring. The Android app fairs better, but that's not what we're judging here. The fade-out playback bar on the top is kind of neat, though.||4The mSpot Web player looks slick and uncluttered. It does a great job of collapsing artist, album, and genre filters at the top of the page--similar to iTunes.||4mSpot definitely has the cleaner interface. The layout of its Web browser player is simple and straightforward and its software tool is easier to use as well.||3.3|
|MP3tunes||4I like the MP3tunes interface quite a bit, actually. There's a nice visual bit with the album art/video box and everything is sorted in its proper place, which is key to an organization freak such as myself.||2MP3tunes bento-box-style is functionally superior to mSpot, but it makes me shudder. It looks straight out of Windows 98.||2Its Web browser player really needs to clean things up, with the multiple boxes all over the place. The software upload tool is crude and needs to be more straightforward. Also, the Web browser player was inconsistent.||2.7|
Round 2: Unique featuresRound 2: Any cloud music service worth its salt is going to be able to stream your music collection down to your phone or Web browser, but what other extras do these two services afford. Can you download songs? Create playlists? Are the mobile apps worthwhile?
|mSpot||2This is a bit tough for me to judge, because I am not personally interested in cloud services at all, but it's nice that mSpot offers 2GB of storage for free as well as an Android app that works superbly.||3mSpot keeps it simple and clean, borrowing a strategy from Pandora. As pretty as it is, there aren't many features beyond streaming your music and playlists--though offline caching on Android is nice.||3It's still the first-gen of streaming services, but downloading tracks directly from the cloud to your Android phone for access anytime is hot. It's too bad this is an Android app only.||2.7|
|MP3tunes||3MP3tunes is clearly the more feature-packed service of the two, what with the integrated Amazon MP3 store and video capability (and it also offers the free 2GB locker). Yet it still fails to fully capture my interest.||4Plenty of great features--especially the capability of downloading songs back down to whatever computer you're on. One big gripe is that the desktop LockerSync application is annoying, sending multiple, ugly pop-ups.||4MP3Tunes' Buy It Anywhere, Listen Everywhere idea is cool. Purchase a song on your Android phone and send it to the cloud to access on multiple devices. Plus, you can download songs from the cloud directly to your phone!||3.7|
Round 3: CompatibilityRound 3: In round three, we give a subjective take on how each service works with the stuff in our lives. What file formats does it support? How about software and hardware compatibility?
|mSpot||3mSpot supports nearly every type of non-DRM audio file, which is nice for those with mixed libraries. However, portable-device compatibility is limited to Android at this time, and playlists don't seem to upload correctly.||2Compatibility with my iPod Touch is a big deal for me, and currently mSpot just doesn't have it. I also noticed that mSpot doesn't ingest any of my podcasts.||2Both Web browser players run on Windows or Mac. They support MP3, AAC, WMV, but not DRM files. Unfortunately, its hardware support is limited to your PC, Mac, or phone running Android 2.1. That's it.||2.3|
|MP3tunes||4MP3tunes accepts both audio and video files in a variety of formats, and it will upload playlists from iTunes. Its compatibility with a wide variety of hardware devices is nice as well.||4MP3tunes covers all the bases, with support for iOS and Android, great format support, and the capability to store podcasts and video. The Airband app isn't pretty, but it works.||4MP3tunes makes sure you get access to its content anywhere, including on mobile phones, game consoles, Roku, TiVo, and more. File support covers the major formats and no DRM files, but also includes OGG. You can also upload videos (FLV, MP4, M4A), but I had no success playing through the browser.||4|
Round 4: Sound qualityRound 4: We go ears-on to see if one service outshines the other in terms of streaming-audio quality.
|mSpot||2Sound quality is certainly passable, but by no means did it blow me away. It's about on par with streaming options like Pandora. More of an issue is the overall Web player performance--I had a lot of trouble even getting songs to play.||4I could be imagining it, but the mSpot Web player seemed to have a little more substance and clarity on the low end. The volume slider allowed for a little extra juice, as well.||3It was nothing spectacular, but it wasn't bad either. The sound quality was good and I got what I expected from both services for streaming audio.||3|
|MP3tunes||3Ditto on the sound quality here, but songs play back with no hiccups.||3Decent sound quality, but lacked a little low-end oomph when a/b tested against mSpot. Experienced some stream hiccups, but about as many as with mSpot.||3Same feeling as above.||3|
Round 5: Value, value, valueRound 5: Going into our final round, the judges are looking at price, but also at how that price reflects the features, performance, design, and quality you're getting from each service.
|mSpot||250GB of storage for $9.99 per month? Um, no thanks. I would much, much rather pay that for a Rhapsody subscription and get access to millions of songs without even having to keep software on my PC. mSpot's 2GB of free storage is the only thing that saves it from garnering a 1.||3Free is free, and having 2GB of my favorite music accessible from any Web browser is awesome. I doubt I would spring for the $9.99 plan, though--especially without the option to download songs back down from the cloud.||3At the moment, it offers 2GB for free, and it has tiered plans for up to 100GB. Options are always nice and for $4.99 per month you're getting 20GB of storage. It's still early and we're waiting to see how this market evolves.||2.7|
|MP3tunes||3$4.99/month for 50GB of storage is a better value, certainly. Still, I'm not sure I see the value in cloud services in general.||4Same great 2GB free option as mSpot offers, but MP3tunes has the better deal on a 50GB storage plan. Plus, you can download your tracks back down to any computer and the app works on both Android, iOS, and Roku.||4You'll also get 2GBs here for free, but there's a 50GB plan for $4.95 a month only. There are no other tiers you can pay for, but the value is here.||3.7|
The winner is...
MP3tunes (3.4 pts)
mSpot (2.8 pts)
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