None of us today carry a separate device for music needs and many of us even don’t keep songs on their phones. Everything is in the cloud and so too is music. When was the last time you thought Oh I need to copy the song to my phone which I downloaded today! That is so 2010. Spotify, Deezer, Tidal etc. have sounded the death knell for many native music players, not only on PC but also on smartphones.
But complex copyright policies and legal issues means many such services are restricted to US and few other countries and do not work outside them. Fortunately music streaming scenario in India is much better now compared to a few years ago. There is fierce competition between many services today, aiming to grab the lion share of the 300 million user base of mobile internet in India.
Music Streaming in India
If we look back few years, there was nothing such as music streaming services. Music was primarily available to purchase only through physical media and in digital form through few websites of music labels, which was absurdly priced. And sadly, there was no concept of paying for things such as songs, videos & movies.
The one website which gained notorious publicity was songs.pk which possibly was the number one destination for online music downloads.
Then came Saavn, in 2007, which initiated the transition to online music streaming, ditching the old pirate ways of downloading. Until recently, Saavn had virtually no competition, but the last two years saw many new players entering the field. Gaana, Hungama, Wynk, Apple Music are the prominent ones which we will compare today to see how they fare. So let’s begin.
Streaming Music: It’s All in the Quality
One of the main objectives of any such service is streaming and music playback. Searching for a particular song, making a playlist and adding a song to the current queue should be hassle free. The main parameters through which we judge is the bitrate of the songs offered as well as the playback experience. Saavn, Gaana & Hungama Music all fail in this, as shown in the GIF below.
I am really keen to know the rationale behind this stupid idea. Others fare well in this aspect with Wynk, Apple Music & Raaga not following this silly trend.
Searching for songs is a mixed bag experience as you don’t get the exact results sometimes, but Saavn & Wynk are a bit better than others in this regard. As for the streaming quality, all apps offer bitrates ranging from 64 Kbps to 320 Kbps with all capping it around 128 Kbps for non-premium users.
Playback is smooth for all the services with very less interruptions. Finally, making and editing playlists is more or less the same across all of them.
Can I Download Songs or Play My Own Music?
Streaming music has one potential dilemma, if you are not on unlimited data plan or Wi-Fi, those 320 kbps songs will quickly gobble up your data plan. To limit data consumption, all services offer offline caching or downloading. This downloads a copy of the song to your device so you can play it even if there is no connectivity. But this copy is not accessible outside the apps like an MP3 file & the feature is only available to premium users.
Premium users get a lot of advantages, if you’re really into music, seriously consider upgrading.
On the other hand if you are looking to purchase a song or album then only three services offer this, Hungama, Apple Music & Wynk. As for playing your own music, all the apps, except Saavn, recognize music stored on your device and can function as standalone music player. Of course don’t expect them to be caliber of Poweramp, but they get the job done.
Apple Goes for No Ads Approach: Costlier than the Rest
All other services, except Apple Music, offer a free basic plan for only streaming music with not-so-subtle ads. If you want the additional features such as offline saving, 320 kbps (HD) playback & no ads you will need to pay for the premium or pro plans. Every service offers a trial period of their pro plans. Apple Music offers the longest trial of all, lasting 3 months, while Hungama offers the shortest of just 7 days.
Plans of Saavn & Gaana are almost identical so as are their services. We have created a comparison chart below to help you out.
Streaming Music Quality: Saavn and Gaana are Better Than Other
Bollywood music is the main content as these services are primarily aimed towards Indian users. But you can even find international music on Saavn, Wynk, Gaana and of course Apple Music while Hungama only has local content. Many of the newest Bollywood tracks and movie songs are first to appear on Saavn and sometimes are even exclusive to the platform.
Gaana is a close second along with Wynk, which also has an upper hand in international content than others. But geographical & copyright issues means some of the songs might not be available.
Curation of songs is best in Saavn while Gaana comes a close second. Content is neatly organized and tagged in all services with lyrics of songs available with a tap. Music quality is also equal across as all offer 320 kbps bitrate. But with streaming, music quality mostly depends on the end user, the device & headphones.
Hungama has Videos, Gaana has Gapless Playback
Yes, there are, from special playlists for running, to mood-based DJ. These extra features is what differentiate these services from each other. Out of the six, Saavn & Gaana don’t offer anything other than the usual platter. Wynk can curate special playlist for running but I would not rely on it unless you want to hear Yeh Sham Mastani during your peak lap.
Plus, if you are an Airtel user, you will charged for the pro membership in your monthly bill itself.
Hungama has videos, which can be downloaded offline or purchased and a mood-based DJ to discover new music. Each service also has a Radio where you can listen to endless songs, much like the ill-fated MixRadio. Gaana has even partnered with Radio Mirchi for the Radio service, and is also the only one which offers gapless playback options in its app.
What Stream Did You Ride?
The music streaming space in India is seeing fierce competition which will be getting more intense with new a new entrant, JioBeats. Currently as it is not available to general public so we have excluded it. JioOnDemand is another app from the same clan which offers Movies, TV shows & videos and could give competition to Hungama.
As for the question “Which Service is Right for Me?” it really depends on personal preference.
I use Wynk as I am a Airtel user and similarly someone who has everything Apple, might prefer Apple Music. The tough choice is between the remaining three.
Hungama has a upper hand in its videos & extra features but it loses out on international music collection. Similarly Gaana has a vibrant UI, Mirchi Radio service, same feature set as Saavn but some latest releases are late to appear on it.
Finally Saavn wins hand down on content, curation & exclusives but doesn’t offer any innovative features. So which service do you use? Share your thoughts & views through comments.