Last week, the Thumbplay Music Store launched on both the BlackBerry App World and the Android Market. Thumbplay bragged that their store was the first online music store to launch for both smartphone platforms and stated that this launch was just the first step in a progressive product roll-out. Their end goal is to provide other smartphone users with the same "entertainment functionality" that iTunes affords iPhone users.
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That's a lofty goal to have, but a difficult one to achieve. Yesterday I had a chance to talk with several members of Thumbplay's team including Evan Schwartz, the company's co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer. They were excited about the new music store, but quick to assure me that it was only the beginning.
Right now the Thumbplay Music store is only available on Android and BlackBerry smartphones, but the company is working on a version for the Palm Pre as well. They don't have an ETA at this point, but their eventual goal is to have an app available for all the major platforms. The current music store is just version 1.0, and Thumbplay hopes to have 2.0 ready by Q4 of this year.
"This is just the beginning." Schwartz assured me.
Testing the Music Store:
Thumbplay gave me access to a pre-created account and let me take their new app for a spin. I downloaded the app from the Android Market and started browsing. The music store's UI is very easy to work with. I had no trouble navigating or searching for music. Before downloading a song, you can listen to a preview. If you choose to buy it, you'll be prompted to enter an email address and a password.
You can pay for your purchases with either credit card, or Paypal. Downloading can be done on-air through your phone's 3G, or via WiFi. For the best quality downloads, you'll want to use your home WiFi network.
Overall the store seemed quick and responsive, the music downloaded in good time and I have no complaints about the interface at all.
What Thumbplay Does Right:
DRM free downloads. Once you purchase your music (between $.69 and $1.29) it is yours. You can save it over to an SD card, stick it on your computer, burn it onto a mix-CD and do anything but sell or distribute it without issue. That alone deserves accolades.
The Music Store also has 24/7 tech support, and they offer one totally free song for download every week. You can download the Thumbplay Music Store itself for free, so this could be a good app to look into even if you're miserly with money.
At this stage of development, the Thumbplay catalogue is a little sparse. You shouldn't have trouble finding music from any well-known artist (Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Billy Joel, etc) but finding a thorough discography is a bit more difficult. Big bands like U2 had a pretty large selection to choose from, but I could only find tribute bands for Oasis. They only had one Beatles album, although their selection of Hair Metal was better than I expected.
If you have more obscure music tastes, don't expect Thumbplay to suit you just yet. They're still building their library of hits and big names. It's going to take them a while to get around to lesser known artists, if they ever do. Schwartz stated that their goal was to offer a catalogue that rivals "anyone else in the market". Considering "anyone" includes iTunes, I'm not sure how achievable a goal that really is. Overall Score: 7.5/10
The Thumbplay Music Store is a well-designed application with an underwhelming music catalogue. The service works well, the prices are fair, and they offer DRM-free downloads. If you're using a BlackBerry or an Android phone and want a place to fill your hard drive up with tunes at a fair price, Thumbplay offers an excellent service.