Old Skool vs New Skool – Napster's Spotify competitor goes mobile in the UK

Music streaming services are are becoming a dime a dozen, and that’s before we factor in the expected launch of Apple’s own cloud music offering. Today, Best Buy-owned Napster, the Old Skool player of yesteryear (by brand name only) has unleashed its mobile apps here in the UK.

Like Spotify, We7 and a raft of European and U.S. music streaming services, Napster Unlimited plus Mobile, available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android devices, gives users on-the-go access to the company’s 15 million track-strong music catalog for a monthly fee of £10. And again similar to Spotify et. al. the apps include off-line playback so that playlists can be cached negating the need for a persistent WiFi or 3G connection.

All very me-too.

In fact, with many services featuring strikingly similar pricing and options, it’s becoming harder to see where competition is making a difference beyond a dash of user experience and perhaps the size of each service’s music catalogue. On that note, Napster make mention of members having access to its “great music discovery features, including playlists, radio stations and recommendations from the Napster music team”. Hardly a deal-clincher is it?

Here’s the full list of ‘features’:

  • Unlimited mobile streaming over both Wi-Fi and 2.5/3G.
  • Intuitive and easy to use navigation enabling instant music playback on mobile devices
  • Mobile access to Napster’s rich feature set including new releases, recommendations, official music charts, Napster’s top 100 charts, and Automix
  • Offline mobile access to the last 100 played tracks and saved playlists, albums and artists so music is always available even without a mobile connection
  • Web-based access from any computer, without having to download any software
  • Automatic synchronisation of playlists on PC, web, mobile and integrated audio devices, with instant and automatic update of changes

Now there is the possibility of something that could make Napster have a slight edge over others: Its parent company is Best Buy and Best Buy Europe is a joint venture with Carphone Warehouse. If Napster mobile subscriptions came bundled with a mobile phone contract through CW in such a way that makes the service ‘feel like free’, we could be onto something. It’s a strategy that Spotify has tried with varying success.