My thoughts on the new HMV App

I have always shopped at HMV for music and films – I remember going to the large Manchester store for a double cassette copy of Now 34 – back when I was 12 going on 25. The way we buy music has changed a lot since then. In 1996, putting your cassettes into a zip up case to take them to your friend’s house was about as portable as music got. Fast forward 18 years, and people can fit 100+ albums in their back pockets, thanks to music downloads. The change in how we buy and play music has meant I have visited HMV stores less and less in recent years.

When I was asked to review the new HMV App, I was keen to see just what they’d done to get a handle on the digital music generation. The iPhone app is free to download. When you open the app, you are faced with the screen shown to the right…

This is how the app works:

HMV Image Search
When you go into this option, your camera kicks into action. If you take a snapshot of the front of an album, the app then searches its’ database to find it. This is a cool feature, and it works quite well, but it’s a bit pointless in my opinion. If you have the album cover in your hand, why would you need to see the info on your phone? I did a bit of digging at this point, and found out that the original app allowed you to purchase the album digitally. Back in October, Apple revoked their approval of this part of the app, and HMV were forced to remove it. Without the purchase option, this feature isn’t something I will ever use. That’s a shame because it works really well – look!

HMV Sound Search
There are a few other apps available which do this feature. Basically, you hear a song you don’t recognise, you tap the screen and the app finds the artist, album and track name for you. I’ve tested this several times, and it works well. Here’s a quick video of it in action! 

My HMV

This section allows you to access your HMV Digital account, and play any
of the tracks you’ve downloaded. For the purpose of this review, I
registered for HMV Digital via safari on my iPhone and purchased “AM” –
The Arctic Monkeys most recent album for £7.99. I then went back into the HMV
app, and it was sat there in the “Downloads” section of “My HMV”, ready to be
downloaded or streamed on my iPhone. You can sort your downloads by artist, album or song.

The app itself is good, but it was a little annoying that I had to access HMV Digital via safari to make any purchases from my iPhone. I get the feeling apple revoked the in app purchase option so people would go to iTunes instead. With this in mind, here’s a brief comparison of the two services…

Price:
The album I bought was £7.99 on both iTunes and HMV Digital.

DRM (Digital Rights Management):
HMV Digital is DRM Free (You can put your downloads on as many devices/ discs as you want). Any downloads made via iTunes can only be added to up to 10 devices.

Access:

iTunes: You can access your music from one of your 10 allocated devices, but nowhere else.
HMV Digital: You can log into your account from any computer or compatible device and download or stream your purchases.

The album I bought from HMV is now in my iTunes account as well. I got it there by downloading the album to my macbook then adding it to my iTunes account on there. This means that essentially, I have got the best of both worlds. I can access my music from anywhere, and still get it onto iTunes and my iPod as well!

I have got Apple TV at home, and I loved the fact I can airplay the album straight to my TV. This means that anyone who has the app can play their music via my apple TV – if if they are connected to my wifi. That would definitely make for some interesting playlists at parties! I tested this and my music played via apple TV. The album artwork even appeared on screen too – until my screen saver kicked in!

The only niggle I have with the HMV app is the fact you have to log into the “My HMV” section every time you access it. This is annoying if you’re playing music and want to stop it quickly. You have to type in your email address and password to stop or skip the track.

I do like the app and the HMV Digital service as a whole, and I think that with a couple of tweaks, it could be something people would happily use to manage their digital music. I love the fact you can access all of your purchased music from your office, phone, TV or laptop, without it having to take up valuable storage space on your device. (You can stream your music, as long as you have an internet connection)!

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