Are you a music lover? Is your iPod (or cellphone, or your tablet, or whatever your favourite digital device) crammed with gigabytes of music files, all classified into playlists by genre, album and artist? Or are they just randomly thrown together into sundry folders? Do you listen to music while you work, workout, relax or while trying to shut down for the night?
The evolution of cellphones and smartphones first threw out the dedicated media player (almost). Now, the proliferation of broadband Internet means that you no longer need those gigabytes of memory space on your device either. All you need is to download a smart app for your smartphone, and click the right hyperlink, and you are ready to roll.
The international favourites are Pandora Radio and Spotify, but these are not available in India directly, unless you use a VPN (virtual private network) service provider who can give you a US IP address. But over the years, Indian sites are catching up. Here we look at four leading players.
[Web, Android, iOS and Java]
Saavn offers a collection of songs in Hindi, Tamil, Telgu, Marath, Gujrati, Bengali, Kannada, Bhojpuri, and English. You can browse through albums, search for a specific song or album, play the whole album at one go, or play song by song. You can even share what you are listening on Twitter and Facebook, and you can also mark a track as your favourite.
You can add songs to a playlist and save playlists to revisit. The App uses banner advertisments to make the thing pay. For R220 a month, you can get Saavn Pro, which lets you download and listen to tracks offline. If you visit the Radio section, it lets you play random songs of a selected genre, say ‘item number’.
[Web, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Java]
Features are similar to Saavn: search by song, by artiste or by album. It also connects to Radio Mirchi shows such as Purani Jeans. You can share songs or albums on social media. Gaana claims to have a huge database of songs, but language options are limited to Tamil, Punjabi, Hindi, English and Bengali. (For whatever reason, Gaana classifies Psy’s Gangam Style as English, by the way). Gaana’s pro version is Gaana+, which costs R170 a month, which lets you download and store songs for offline access. Download the music you want, and carry it around, never having to buy another album.
[Web, Android, Blackberry, iOS]
Hungama’s take on music is different. It asks you your mood, and helps you locate appropriate music. You can also search for a track, album, or artiste, though we found this aspect to be slightly weaker in as compared to the others reviewed here. Hungama offers songs in Hindi, English, Marathi, Bengali, Telugu and Gujarati.
Unlike the Gaana and Saavn apps,there is no pro version available for offline access. There is a Radio option, but you may not really need it, thanks to the ‘listen by mood’ offering. Gaana’s web and mobile app also supports videos, though for unlimited video access, you need to --- what else? Upgrade. Cost: R110.
[Web, iOS, and Android]
The Jango model is even more different. It works as an artiste or genre radio, and does not let you select songs. So if you like, say, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a search for the artiste will bring up a channel that will play songs by Khan sahib. You get to mark ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ as songs are played, and depending on your likes, the song plays more often on your radio channel, giving you access to singers that you like, and songs by them.
There are also genre-dependent channels, from Jingle Bell rock, that throw up rock songs with the Christmas theme, or a channel called Vintage Hits for Mom. By default, songs are English, unless you select a specific singer.
Over all we loved the way Gaana and Saavn have made music available. The pro versions seem very interesting, though a monthly fee of R170 - 220 may be steep for accessing music. On the other hand, you would no longer be buying albums. We loved the way Hungama interacted with us, the Jango App gave us a way to find more songs, like the “When I’m Sixty Four, by the Beatles”.
Go ahead, download them all, and see what works for you.