Today saw the arrival of the first DRM-free music download service specifically for Google Android with the launch of Mewbox. The online store offers a catalogue of over 4 million tracks from 23,000 different labels straight to any phone or other Android device through the free Mewbox Vanilla app.
The service aims to "reconnect the experience and value of music into the digital space", the mission around which company director Neil McManus intends to take on the big players. He told Pocket-lint:
"We're the same price as iTunes. We're not competing with Apple in price but in user experience. On iTunes, it's very cold. It's all up on the shelves like in Kwik Save and there's no love in it. First we have a friendly UI with a frame that draws you in, we have a blog written by people who actually work at Mewbox and we'll be adding loads of related media from free tracks and free gig tickets to album reviews and much more".
As a former record label owner, McManus certainly has the contacts to deliver on the promises where perhaps some other services might have difficulty. His team includes live music and event specialists who helped to the start cult, boutique festivals Bestival and the Secret Garden Party, but the Mewbox chief is basing his business on more than just that in what is already a fiercely competitive space.
"Android is showing growth of 25% month on month and the average user is responsible for four times the web usage of someone on an iPhone. Android handsets are used for a purpose, not just for fashion and the figures show that by 2012, it's going to be in the lead. So, our advantage over all the other many music services out there? It's that we're the first one on this platform".
From our brief hands on with the service, the platform, presentation and delivery are all very good which is largely due to the fact that it's already been running for 6 weeks as part of a custom build for the Archos 5 media player.
The success of the soft launch means the general Android-using public can expect a smooth ride if they choose to take Mewbox for a spin. A secure sign in system which you only have to go through just once pleasantly removes an element of faff from the proceedings.
The big question though is, with downloads seeming like an old trick, is streaming where Mewbox is heading? Not so says MacManus.
"I can tell you right now we will never do streaming. I know how much that costs, I know it's not viable and I know that there's no way I can see to make a return on that".
So, quite how Spotify is going to make it work seems like a mystery indeed.