Sony’s Music Unlimited system, through its Qriocity cloud portal, is about to hit Android phones in the U.S., France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand–the first time Sony’s put its service on a mobile device.
Music Unlimited was launched in the U.K. in December 2010 and hit the states in January of this year, streaming music from Sony’s own extensive recording archive and other music labels to Sony devices. The experiment came to a horrible clunking halt during the recent spate of high-profile hack attacks targeting Sony’s online assets, but is now back online. The new “Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity” app on the Android market is Sony’s latest attempt to earn revenue from the system, which has already been available via PS3s, connected Bravia TVs, and other static machines, and it’s tapping into the current vogue for streaming music.
For $9.99 a month you’ll get multi-device compatibility, some basic ad-free curated channels “categorized by genre, era as well as mood through SensMe technology,” a personalization service which learns your preferences, playlists, on-demand playback, some premium content channels and other features. A $3.99 monthly subscription gets you a more limited list of services, but both subscriptions offer access to Sony’s “Music Sync” system that lets you “scan and match your existing music files and playlists on your PC to the service for playback on compatible devices at anytime.” And this sounds a lot like a cloud-based music locker very much in the vein of what Google and Amazon offer–Sony even goes as far as noting it’s compatible with “playlists from other media players including iTunes.”
Kazuo Hirai, the deputy president of Sony Corp, says in a press release: “Music Unlimited …for Android is the next evolution of the service which enhances the value proposition for our customers.”
This new tweak has got some serious push behind it, Sony fans. But can it allow Sony to really make a splash in the mobile music streaming game?
Sure, there are some nice tweaks that its rivals can’t match, but $9.99 a month doesn’t compare to Apple’s $29 a year for iTunes Match or Amazon’s low-price 20GB music locker access–which is being pushed as a free purchase when you buy an MP3 album from Amazon’s store. Will users be prepared to spend between $48 and $120 to access Sony’s seven million licensed tracks and benefit from a mood-based curated channel using Sony’s high-tech SensMe system? There is, after all, stiff competition from the likes of Pandora (currently ascendant) and upcoming challenges from Spotify and Apple. It’s a telling move, too, that the inventor of the Walkman and a doomed range of MP3 players is now putting its mobile music chops on a Google-powered suite of phones and tablets.