Nokia recently launched their Ovi Music Store in South Africa. I decided to give it a test to see if it was worth mentioning.
First: in order to buy anything, you need to create an account – which is surprisingly easy and requires minimal personal information (although you do need to give your cellphone number). The one gripe I have with the sign-on is that your password can’t contain special characters.
Next up is finding what you’re looking for and the provided search tool actually does pretty well here. The selection is also very good – there are albums available that were released very recently (Disturbed – Asylum, 10 Years – Feeding the Wolves etc.) and I easily found a lot of music that is generally very hard to find in South Africa as it needs to be specifically imported.
Now we buy, and I have to say that the prices here are quite good – R8 per song and about R100 for an album of 13+ songs. Sometimes you find an album that’s below 13 songs for R100, in which case I’d suggest just buying the songs separately, other times those albums are available for R40, R60 or R80 – just enough to undercut the R8 per song tag. There were options for payment, but I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t really try and find out more as buying on the Internet was the main reason for me getting my Credit Card and using that was pretty standard.
After buying, you get to download your music. It was here that I was quite disappointed – it’s not a deal-breaker, and it isn’t irreparable, but it was disappointing. I’m talking here about the fact that there wasn’t a “Download Album”- or a “Download All”-button – you have to download each song separately. It’s a simple UI thing, so I hope that Nokia adds the option. The other thing that grated my cheese a little was that I was downloading at speeds last seen in the 90’s. I averaged it and found that I was going at about 11.53 KB/s on a 4 Mb/s line. It was a little sad, but maybe I just hit a rough patch. Another sad point was that there was no album-art. The music is also only available at 256 kb/s rates in mp3-format(no FLAC or Ogg). Small things, I know, and none or even all of them are deal-breakers, but these are improvements that can be made.
I’ve left the most important things for last and I’m sure that those who know something about the Ovi Music Store are pushing each other out of the way to be the first one to punch me in the face. There are two factors that turn this into a big win, in my opinion, and they are:
Firstly, that this store is browser-based – there is no desktop client that you have to download and this means that this is a cross-platform solution off the bat. It doesn’t matter if you’re a PC, Linux or Mac person, you can access it and enjoy the goodness.
Secondly, and most importantly, is that the music that you download is DRM-free. Yes, you read that right. You can download it and copy it to your iPod/<insert music playing device/>, smartphone, PC, laptop, netbook, tablet and any other device you feel like and then write it to a CD or two. Legally. (All those gripes I had just vanished and then some.)
Thus, in short:
- Easy to sign up
- Excellent selection
- Good prices
- Browser-based; cross-platform
- No DRM
- 256 kb/s bitrate
- mp3-format only
- Passwords can’t contain special characters
- Slow DL speeds (11.53 KB/s average for me on a 4 Mb/s line)
- No “Download All”- or “Download Album”-button. Have to DL each song manually
- No Album art
The Nokia Ovi Music Store is not perfect, but it has everything in place to be a big success in South Africa and I actually hope it is and that it shakes things up a little. There’s nothing quite like some solid competition.