MixRadio, the radio music service that was transferred from Nokia to Microsoft and then bought by messaging app company Line last year, is finally available for iOS and Android. The service, which began life in 1999 when British artist Peter Gabriel founded it as OD2, was only been available for Microsoft (née Nokia) Lumia handsets until now.
Since Microsoft’s Windows Phone is a distant third in the mobile platform war — Kantar estimates it accounts for less than five percent of phones sold in the U.S. — many people will be unfamiliar with MixRadio, so let’s take a step back for a second.
Global Internet Radio
The service is an internet radio, similar in style to Pandora. It’s free to use, and it monetizes with advertising, which appears in an ad unit at the bottom of the tab — that’s a lot more subtle than Pandora, but it is early days for MixRadio.
The UK-baed service boasts a 35 million track catalog and comes with over 10,00 pre-made playlists, that includes your regular genre-based compilations and hand-crafted track lists from a range of artists, including Lana Del Rey, Rihanna and Lady Gaga. Pandora is limited to the U.S., Australia and New Zealand — I have to summon my VPN to use it in Thailand, which is tricky on mobile — but MixRadio is far more global with users in 31 countries.
Like its illustrious competitor, MixRadio doesn’t you to rewind songs/playlists, while it also limits the number of skips you can make per playlist per hour. Interestingly though, MixRadio allows users to store parts of their playlist offline for playback without an internet connection. There is also an option to get more details on each artist, and you can buy tracks outright from third-parties stores (iTunes on iOS) too.
MixRadio claims to have “millions” of monthly active users through its distribution via Lumia devices — it didn’t provide a figure for its total registered userbase — but launching on iOS and Android brings the potential to vastly increase that figure, even if it is fairly late to the scene and only a radio service.
“I’ve said consistently that for a music service to be relevant, it must be on all major platforms,” MixRadio CEO Jyrki Rosenberg told TechCrunch in an interview. “We still consider Windows Phone to be an important platform — particularly given our deal to pre-load the app on Lumia devices.”
Personalization And Simplicity
There’s already Pandora and Apple’s iTunes Radio, competitors like Spotify, Deezer offer limited versions of their services for free, and Tidal, Rdio and others offering users a monthly subscription service — is there really a need for Yet Another Music Service?
While it may mirror in some ways Pandora, Rosenberg said he believes that MixRadio differs from the competition with its focus on personalization and mobile. (For now, there is no desktop or web app.)
“The music industry is transitioning from physical to digital sales, and from downloading to streaming,” he said. “But we are focused on people, they want simplicity of use and a high level of personalization.
“[When] we began to develop [it was] for mobile, whereas other competitors started from the computer screen,” Rosenberg added.
Rosenberg argued that internet radio remains “a massive opportunity” for the sheer simplicity that it offers.
“Many services are very focused on enthusiast users,” he explained. “Everyone loves music but everyone has a different taste — we believe most users would love a service that plays music that they like, but how many people have time [to create and develop their own playlists].”
The MixRadio CEO is bullish on the possibilities that analysing data and algorithms can service users up music that they’ll appreciate based on their music history, and a few selections that the app prompts you to make when you open it for the first.
I have a pretty
weird eclectic taste, live in one of the many countries not supported by Pandora, and find that Spotify, Deezer and Rdio work well when I know what I want to listen to, but struggle to surface new music. For those reasons, the past few days of testing MixRadio for iOS has given me something different, but at times mixing together a bunch of different tunes hasn’t been ideal.
The fact that many of its rival service are not available across all countries gives MixRadio some advantage. Though it remains to be seen what proportion of people in markets like India will pay for legitimate services, as I pointed out last week.
Partnerships And Future Plans
Asia is an area where MixRadio’s alliance with Line could be interesting, although for now there is no integration between the music app and chat service with 205 million monthly active users.
“We’ve been part of a global company,” Rosenberg said, “And now we have a parent with a strong footprint in Asia. We expect [this launch will give us] growth in Asia in addition to Western markets.”
Rosenberg was light on specific details of how Line will use MixRadio, but with the Japanese company testing its own TV service in Southeast Asia and a paid-for streaming service for kids in Japan, it is clear that it is looking to introduce entertainment services as part of its push to turn its messaging app into a platform.
“We’re not announcing integrations [with Line], but we are talking a lot with them on future innovative,” he said.
More immediately though, MixRadio appears to have evolution plans of its own. Though he wouldn’t be drawn into revealing specific details, Rosenberg coyly said that iOS and Android apps “are very interesting starting point for us.”
“We’re not announcing any other tiers,” he said, when asked on plans to introduce free play options to MixRadio. “But everything is possible.”
One partnership that MixRadio can talk about is with HTC. It is working with the smartphone maker to power the music component of its BlinkFeed service.