Apps Music Smartphone Windows Phone

My ramblings on XBox Music vs Deezer

DeezerThere must be literally millions of articles written on the subject of music service this versus music service that. A lot of the ones I have read seems to be quite similar though and most of them did not really bring up things that I, after having used the services mentioned in the title, consider important for my own choice. In any case, this is my personal hobby site after all and I felt like doing some personal rambling on the subject so here goes…

Xbox MusicI have to admit that I was rather late to the streaming party. CD’s had always been my media of choice, and in some ways it still is, but when I changed car I could not get one with a CD changer any more but had to contend with a single CD player placed in an awkward place. For music it appeared that the designers assumed that you had your music on something that could be plugged in via USB or Bluetooth.

So, apart from starting to rip my CD, I also ventured into the world of XBox Music, Deezer etc…

I started with Deezer, switch to XBox Music for a while and now I am back to Deezer. Why one might ask? Well to me it boiled down to one thing, okay mostly to one thing, namely which service had the best mobile apps and specifically the best mobile app for Windows Phone. After all, the reason I started to look at these services was for playing music in my car. In my house I would use my proper sound system and there is no way I would play MP3’s on that. Let’s face it, the quality of streaming music sucks compared to uncompressed ditto provided of course the latter one is well recorded. Yes you streaming and/or MP3 fanboys out there can shout at me as much as you want but it is still the truth. Also, I do not know what these companies do when they encode the music but even my own MP3’s ripped from my own CD’s at 320 Kbps sound crisper and better than the high quality version of streaming, which on Deezer is supposed to be 320 Kbps as well.

While we are on the subject on quality…
My personally, and quite probably subjective, opinion based on having listened several months on music from both services is that, to me, Deezer sound clearer, more detailed and generally better than XBox Music. XBox Music is, if I understood it correctly, using their own WMA format at 192 Kbps. Deezer claims up to 320 Kbps MP3. Microsoft claims their format is more efficient but no matter if they are right or not. To me Deezer is noticeable better in most cases.

Overall usage and web interface…
Both services really have a quite useful web interfaces by which you can manage your collection. On both cases it is really the best way to do tasks like creating playlists, managing favorites etc. The mobile interfaces, especially on a small screen, is not the right tool for this.

There are small differences like the Deezer interface being more intuitive when removing all tracks from a playlist but then on XBox Music it is easier to add whole albums to a playlist with a few clicks. Both interfaces have the same basic features in terms of being able to play a mix of music based on a given artist, viewing your collection etc…

The one thing where Deezer excels is their recommendation system. You get recommendations based on what you have liked and they are actually, in my experience, meaningful. Deezer also have their flow system where you, with a single click, get it to play a selection of your music for you.

In general Deezer have a more full experience than XBox Music.

The apps…
Now we come to the most important part, for me at least. The quality of the app is actually the reason I switched away from Deezer for a while and tried out XBox Music. The Deezer app for Windows Phone was simply abysmal. It stopped playing whenever it felt like it. Off-line mode simply did not work. Since I pass a national border at least two times a day when working off-line mode is important to me. It just did not work so I ditched Deezer and started to use XBox Music.

XBox music worked fine as far as playback is concerned. Unfortunately the music quality is inferior in my opinion. Something that irked me quite a lot.

After using XBox music for a while I discovered some rather serious flaws with the storage management though. I almost never use streaming mode but sync the music to my phone first. XBox Music is quite a bit slower at syncing. Not a big deal but what is more of a show stopper is that there is literally no practical way of managing your storage with the XBox Music app. There is no way of clearing the cache. Even if you mark a playlist as do-not-sync it does not seem to remove the files. Worse, if you change the content of a playlist it downloads the new content but also keeps the old content on the phone. You can go in and delete files track by track but then it promptly informs you that it will delete the files both on the phone and in the cloud. What the fuck is that Microsoft?

The Deezer app is rather the inverse to this Microsoft example in how not to develop an app. It synchronizes a lot faster, does not keep the files hanging around. You can set a limit for how much the app is allowed to use and easily clear everything by a simple clear the cache tap in the settings.

A couple of days ago I was wondering why I had so little space left on my phone and I found that the XBox Music app had gobbled up over three Gb despite the fact that I had only asked it to sync one playlist with no more than 20 or so tracks at any one point in time. As I wrote above, what the fuck is that Microsoft? Did you put a techie to develop this app?

My car…
That was the reason I tried all of this out remember? I wanted to play music in my car. So I paired my phone to the entertainment system in my Jeep such that it starts/resumes to play my “Jeep” playlist every time I’m in the car.

This works pretty much the same for both apps with one exception. The XBox Music app seems to communicate on a higher level than the Deezer one. When playing music from the XBox Music app the entertainment system correctly displays how many tracks are left to play and some commands, like shuffle, works both using the phone and using the car controls.

The Deezer app seems to be working at the lowest level and simply sends one track at a time. The car controls do not work except the very basic ones like start, stop skip etc. and the display in the car always says that it plays track 1 of 1 tracks.

Not a big deal but a bit of a shame that the Deezer app did not implement a higher level protocol.

And finally I am using…
So, since Deezer had come out with quite a few updates since I ditched it I decided to go back and check if it had become less buggy when it came to playback. I switched back a while ago and so far I none of the issues I had before have surfaced.

Given that I find the quality of the Deezer music better and that the synchronisation system of the XBox Music app is really broken as far as I am concerned Deezer is my service of choice for now.

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