Intro: JB HiFi’s NOW service is true blue Aussie, grown in our own backyard. If you’re one of them “they took our jobs” sort of people, then this is probably right up your alley. Launched late last year before the streaming competition really got intense, NOW unfortunately created little buzz and it wasn’t until April that the mobile apps were made available.
Music Library – 2/5: You’d think that given JB Hi-Fi are a music retailer with access to thousands upon thousands of CDs that their music library might be a little ahead of the curve. But alas, it’s not up to scratch. With a library of 9 million tracks, it might seem pretty significant, but it’s paltry compared to the numbers boasted by competitors. We found a few holes with our little test too. Interestingly enough, NOW was missing local acts (like San Cisco) and some big name indie material (Grizzly Bear’s first album for example) were notably absent. This could signify that JB aren’t quite the quickest at uploading new music and we suggest you search for your favourite artists before signing up. While your stock standard big name artists are aplenty, you ‘ll be resigned to doing an indie hair flick when you can’t find your favourite Pitchfork artist.
Design – 5/5: NOW has a clean design and you’ll be grateful for the added colour scheme compared to some other drab sources. The play panel (at the bottom) and the search panel (at the top) ensure that there is little space elsewhere to get lost in. Just like Rdio it puts more focus on the artwork, but unlike any other service it lets artist biographies stand out more, which seems slightly counterintuitive for a listening program (not a reading one).
Functionality- 2/5: It’s clean and easy to use, and you’ll enjoy discovering new music from contestants of The Voice(*cough, cough*) promoted by JB. It’s all right in front of you, but the search function could be better. Instead of taking you straight to the artist you’re looking for, it brings up limited results. Type in The Smiths and you’ll initially be worried at what appears to be only a few songs by the British legends; but if you click on the artists you realise – thank the heavens – that the entire discography is there. You can ‘like’ artists and see what other people are listening too, but it appears that either few people have taken advantage of the interactivity, either that or less people use NOW than expected.
Price – 5/5: NOW provides only one option to connect and that’s premium, but there is a tiered system for how long you are subscribed, in either one, three or twelve month increments. It’s $10 a month unless you choose to commit to a full year, in which case the price goes down to $8.25 a month. JB are more generous than their competitors by giving a free one month trial away to new users, so enjoy the free option while it lasts, as it’s all paying from there on out.
Limitations: It doesn’t seem like JB have taken this venture very seriously. There is barely any interactivity. Although you can follow a few randoms here or there, but that’s about it. There are very few draw cards to this service, while few will notice the few million less songs it has than Rdio or Spotify, why risk the chance with NOW, when other services have not only more songs, but more features?
The edge: NOW looks pretty and they give you plenty of time to access music for free. But where it really excels is in its pricing. JB are effectively charging you $10 (or $8 if you lock in for 12 months) for a premium service, which makes it the cheapest on the market.
The verdict: 3/5
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