One thing Nokia is not offering customers yet is an integrated music management program; however, playlists of music can be streamed through your browser via the Nokia Media Bar plug-in for Internet Explorer. This is better than nothing, but really just collects songs into a list without any options to order them asides from dragging and dropping tracks above or below one another. Nokia has suggested it's working on a dedicated media client, but until we see it, the lack of management leaves us longing for the ease of iTunes.
Users looking to escape the choking grip of Apple's DRM-protected file compatibility will be less than impressed to discover Nokia has followed a similar route. Where the iTunes store sells DRM-protected AAC files, the Nokia Music Store sells DRM-protected Windows Media Audio (WMA) files. This restricts users to playback on their Windows PCs and compatible media players, which does not include the ubiquitous Apple iPod.
Stranger still is the limited list of Nokia handsets that are currently compatible with the Nokia Music Store Web interface and the music downloaded from the site. Currently there are only four handsets that can access the site; the N95, N95 8GB, and N82. Handsets that can play the DRM-protected WMA files are the list above plus the , , the , 6267 and the Nokia range. This is far from a complete list of current and popular Nokia handsets.
Furthermore, the Nokia Music Store site is only compatible with the Internet Explorer browser (version 6 and above) and only accessible from a Windows PC — there's absolutely no Mac or Linux support. Digitally protecting the music may still serve a purpose, however much customers will rail against it, but limiting the compatibility for browsing, purchasing and playback could be the death knell for such a young service.
Nokia is playing the pricing game safely with single tracks costing AU$1.70 and full albums costing AU$17; identical base pricing for music on the iTunes store. While browsing the Nokia Music Store, we also found a few bargain priced albums for AU$12. The streaming music service is priced separately to music downloads, a recurring charge of AU$10 per month. Depending on how you consume music, and how precious you are about owning the music, we think the streaming service represents excellent value.
The Nokia Music Store looks great, is easy to navigate and has a great collection of music on offer, especially Australian music. However, the specificity of devices needed to access the service, not just with the DRM-protected files, but also the browser and the short-list of Nokia handsets, means you may need to spend more money to access the service than many people will be willing to pay, especially when iTunes is free and available across all major platforms.
If you already own a Windows PC and a compatible Nokia handset then the Nokia Music Store is well worth a look, and if you're someone who prefers listening to the radio than buying CDs, the streaming options represents good value.