Better late than never, streaming music service MOG has finally introduced its mobile application for iPhone (s aapl) and Android (s goog) devices, providing streaming access to a library of eight million songs for a monthly fee of $9.99. Originally anticipated soon after MOG’s fall 2009 launch, then showcased at March’s SXSW interactive conference, the apps are expected to go live in the App Store and Android Market today.
Although it was first to enter the U.S.-based market among the new wave of cloud-based streaming services when it launched its desktop service in December 2009, MOG’s entry into the mobile arena follows the arrivals of Rdio and Thumbplay, which offer similar desktop-plus-mobile plans that cost about $10 monthly. (Both Rdio and MOG also deliver streaming music to PCs for $5 a month.) MOG also goes head-to-head with Spotify in the UK market, though the latter’s promised U.S. launch has been delayed so often that it’s starting to appear apocryphal.
My week-long test drive of MOG’s iPhone app showed how far mobile streaming music apps have come since Rhapsody became the first U.S. subscription service to introduce an app last September. It also indicated how far they have to go. MOG’s feature-rich app allows many levels of micromanaging one’s music desires, offering on-demand queuing, playlisting, offline caching and multiple degrees of control over what appears in a radio stream, from single-artist shuffles to Pandora-like mixes of similar artists and songs via a unique slider interface. Some might even say the feature set clutters the app, but once I got used to it I found it to be the most flexible music app on my mobile phone, with functionality that outstrips its peers.
Still, I found MOG’s initial app glitchy. Once, it mysteriously defaulted to 30-second clips in the middle of an album, then delivered full tracks on a second try. It re-started a cached track multiple times by itself while I sat in a train tunnel, and on one occasion it suddenly repeated a song long after the album had ended and the phone sat idle. And like its cloud competitors, MOG still hasn’t solved the continuity issues around streaming an album with songs that run together; abrupt gaps occur as one song ends and the next is still loading. It’s like listening to a badly burned CD — something I associate with a free experience rather than a paid one.
MOG has improved its song catalog impressively since launch, and has filled in a lot of the gaps that the newer rival Rdio is still remedying. Both compete in an increasingly crowded music subscription field alongside incumbents Napster and Rhapsody, and that field seems ripe for a shakeout within a year or so, especially if handset makers or carriers decide to add music content to their offerings via acquisitions. MOG represents an increasingly attractive standalone offering, even if consumers have historically never demonstrated all that much desire to subscribe to a music library. Instead, it could be a viable takeover target, as a mobile music service bundled with an existing wireless subscription might finally produce the successful access model that has proven so elusive thus far.