Over the last few years I have been looking for a solution to my music storage problem. Recently whilst playing about with Windows Phone I have come close to finding my ideal solution. That solution was 7Digital.
First of all I should let you know what the problem is. I have several phones, several tablets, several laptops, several desktop pcs, some O2 Jogglers, his and hers mp3 players and a wife. Each one of these items at some point in an average week will be used for playing music. Be it at home, at work, travelling from one to the other, in my car, on holiday, in the garage, the list could go on but I won’t bore you with the full version.
In the olden days, I would order a new cd, shortly after that I’d receive it in the post and then rip the cd to my computer. I then used to go through a weekly procedure of connecting up various devices to my pc and copying the new music across to the variety of memory cards or internal memory, I was happy with this and duly allocated several hours a month to watching the Windows XP “Copying to” dialog box.
Then I got a little bit creative and bought a NAS drive (network attached storage). I copied all of my music to the drive and as long as was at home and connected to wifi I could pretty much play anything I wanted. The problems started to arise when I was out of the house, I basically still had to copy music to my phone or mp3 player to be able to listen to music when out and about. The wife also thought that streaming music across wifi was akin to witchcraft.
Recently I have started to buy music digitally, i.e. give Amazon or someone my money and download the album on my pc. This service then became available on phones and tablets and suddenly my problems grew tenfold. I ended up with folders full of music all over the place. I was buying albums on a tablet or laptop and the following week not being able to find where the music had got to. Once again I had to start plugging things back in once a week and copying everything to one central location. I was not happy. Amazon and their “download once” policy just made things more complicated. I then came across Google Music.
If I lived in the US it would be really easy. In the US Google Music allows you to purchase music, store that music in the Cloud, download the music to any authorised device and also upload music to the Google Cloud as well. In the UK we are left with a rather limited version of it. To sign up for it involves some internet trickery and then you upload and stream music. Due to licensing issues you are not allowed buy music through the service. Which is a shame. With a bit of tinkering I could buy music on my pc using Amazon or someone else, download the files and the re-upload those files to Google Music. It was the closest I had got to my ideal setup. I still wanted the whole thing to be a bit more streamlined.
During my “Week with Windows Phone” the other week I was trying out various Windows Phone music apps. I came across 7Digital, which seemed to allow me to do everything I wanted. It did the following.
- Allows you to purchase music
- Allows you to stream music from the cloud
- Allows you to download tracks to your all of your devices
The only thing missing is the ability to upload music from your pc to the 7Digital Cloud. I guess in a few months time I will have bought enough music to not notice. A good thing about 7Digital is that is cross platform and the experience seems to be different on each. I’ll briefly cover each app below.
The Windows Phone version looks great but it is limited by the Windows Phone environment. If all of your music is stored in the 7Digital Cloud you will be ok. If not you will be jumping from one music player to another to listen to your whole library. The app does allow purchases and downloads quite easily though. Also strangely there isn’t a way to easily jump between tracks whilst playing your music you can swipe through next and previous but finding your way back to the tracklist can be a little awkward. The settings for the app allow you to change download and streaming settings so that it only uses wifi. You just have to keep you phone awake. If you are on 3 or giff gaff I guess you could just use your 3g without a worry.
The ideal usage for Windows Phone users would be to use the desktop client and then sync the music via Zune to your phone or stream your music to your device as well. Although the wifi sleep “feature” in Windows Phone means you will need to keep your device turned on. It is definitely worth a look as a worthy alternative to Zune or Nokia Music.
The Android version is a lot nicer looking than the Windows Phone version and any music that you download to your device is soon absorbed into other media players. Which instantly makes it more useful on Android. Again purchasing is available in the app and music playback is a lot more intuitive. The other thing I was pleasantly surprised to see was a tablet version of the app, browsing through catalogues of music is a joy using 7Digital, with lots of categories and sections to browse through. The built in player is also a lot more intuitive than other platforms there is even an option to add your other music to the player as well. On Android 7Digital is as close to my ideal solution as you can currently get.
The iOS version of 7Digital faces the same problems as the Windows Phone version. I asked a few of our writers how they get round this and Adrian mentioned that he uses the desktop client to download the music which adds it to iTunes and then syncs with his iPod. The thing here is that if you have several devices you can easily spread the music around.
The Windows desktop version basically allows you to manage your downloads and purchases from your computer. It is tied into the 7Digital website and playback is done via another program like Zune or Windows Media Player. The 7Digital website could certainly do with brightening up, browsing music or doing anything is not as good as you would expect. I prefer to use the tablet version of the app.
Overall I am happy with the service from 7Digital, certain bits are lacking such as uploading your own music to their cloud and sometimes you will find that music costs more on 7Digtal than it does elsewhere. If 7Digital want to stand out from the crowd they need to offer a Spotify style monthly subscription and also include uploading to the cloud, that way they would offer more than any other online music provider. Who knows maybe one day they will.
As a multi platform solution to my music needs it comes pretty damn close. Maybe one day Google or Amazon will sort out their licensing issues and things will move on a stage. Here are the links below to the different versions available, the app is free and you can browse through the seelction without having an account so you can get a feel without having to get the credit card out.
Google Play Store Link – 7Digital
Windows Phone Marketplace Link – 7Digital
iTunes Link – 7Digital