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Review: VZW’s Vcast Music with Rhapsody makes a good case for other options

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly feature, Yay or Nay. Every week we’ll review a new wireless application or service from the user’s point of view, with the goal of highlighting what works and what doesn’t. If you wish to submit your application or service for review, please contact us at [email protected]

Applications: Verizon Wireless Vcast Music with Rhapsody.
Running on: Research In Motion Storm on Verizon Wireless’ network.
Yay: Download full-track songs on the go for the same price or cheaper than a ringtone. Extensive catalog of tracks that is surprisingly easy to access.
Nay: Maddening delay in user interface on Storm. Playback quality sporadic. Pricing model still prohibitive. Why no full-album option?
We say: Verizon Wireless’ music service fills a niche for those that have to have their music fix NOW, but pricing and purchasing options leave it well short of PC-based services.
Review: Despite the best intentions of carriers, downloadable music services have yet to put a damper in the digital music space. With three of the four largest operators offering some sort of over-the-air download service, consumers have a lot of options, though limitations of those services seem to be limiting uptake.
Verizon Wireless’ Vcast Music with Rhapsody offering is both a mouthful and a bountiful offering that would seem to meet all the demands a digital music connoisseur would have. The service allows users to browse millions of song titles, sample songs before they buy and allow the downloading of songs directly to the handset. In addition, the offering’s Rhapsody tie-in allows users to sign-up for a subscription service that enables the sideloading of songs to a handset for a flat rate. (Those songs abide by the Rhapsody terms and conditions, which means a customer has access to those songs as long as they pay the $15 per month fee.) What could be better?
In practice, the over-the-air portion of the service is quite compelling and stacks up well against competing offerings. The service allows the user to search for music from a generic listing of “What’s New,” “What’s Hot,” “Recommended” and “Features,” as well as a browsing section that could be searched by “Genres,” “Artists,” “Albums” or “Songs.” The album search is a bit misleading as while it can help if you know the name of the album that a particular song is on, the service does not allow users to download an entire album at once. A user has to go song by song at the $2 per-song price.
The pricing also brings up another limitation of the service. While the price includes both a version of the track for the handset as well as one that can be downloaded to a PC, the price is double the going rate for digital downloads, albeit for only a single version.
Once a song is selected, downloads took anywhere from a few seconds to nearly a minute. But, thanks to the Microsoft Corp.-sourced digital rights management software, songs downloaded to a device can only be played on that device. This is tempered somewhat by the extra track that is downloaded to a PC that can then be sideloaded into other devices.
I also experienced issues with songs that were downloaded as many had what sounded like “skips” in them that made listening to them somewhat maddening. This was also heard during some of the song samples. This, along with the restrictive DRM and pricing would make me think twice before plunking down money for digital music using the service.

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