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Hands on: The Myspace app is a beautiful, confusing work in progress

myspace_app (1)For a self-labeled social media butterfly, I’ve got a serious confession: I’ve never maintained a Myspace account (not to my knowledge, at least). I was too busy writing up killer testimonials for my friends on Friendster and when that got old, I turned to Facebook for some Mob Wars. The thought of signing up always nagged at me, but I never pulled the trigger. Until now.

The new Myspace is pretty sleek and shiny. It’s laden with bigger, cleaner visuals that give the site a more modern feel. The relaunch has been a much-discussed one, and now that Myspace is officially out of beta with an iOS app in tow, it’s time to take yet another look at what the new Myspace is bringing to the social-media-meets-music table.

How it works

Joining Myspace is easy. Forget the irony in using Facebook and Twitter to sign in – that’s just how most sites are wired these days and using your existing login details lessens the hassle of remembering a new account. Upon signing in for the first time, you are immediately handed a short tutorial on how to navigate through the app:

  • Tap the create (+) button to add a status, animated GIF, or photo
  • Swipe up to access your music player; swipe down to hide it again
  • Tap the menu button or swipe right to see your profile, inbox, and the Discover panel

When I first signed up through my Web browser, I added a profile photo and one of the default cover photos. On the mobile app, clicking the Edit icon on your profile page combines options for both your profile and cover photos – you can edit one or both.

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Since my account is brand-new, I have zero connections, so naturally the Stream, Notifications, and Messages will all be empty for a while. To fix this “problem,” I clicked on People under the Discover panel and was led to this search box that sort of resembles those you can find on online dating sites.

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This isn’t that creepy, though, because under Account Type you can search for brands, venues, musicians, photographers, models, filmmakers, designers, DJs, and other vocations on top of being able to look for other Myspace members. You can narrow your search further by selecting a gender and tweaking the distance parameters. Given your selected filters, you can start scanning profiles by swiping left.

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You can also view their profiles and send them messages. If you see a profile you’d like to connect to, click on the double-circle icon on the top right of the screen. Not feeling your searches? Go back to People and click the X on the search box to view profile recommendations from Myspace. If you already have musicians or artists in mind, you can type in their names on the Search bar, where you can easily connect with them or send them a message.

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Once you’ve followed a couple of people, you can go back to Stream and check out their updates. You can click on Show Filters to check out any of four update types in one go.

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Next up is the Radio feature. You will instantly see what radio station is trending as well as a few featured artists you may want to listen to. You can also browse stations by genre.

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Once you choose a radio station, a player will launch at the bottom of the page. If the artist playing is someone you’d like to keep tabs on, you can easily click the Connect icon as you listen. Not feeling the song currently playing? You have an option to skip it, but be stingy with the forward button – you are limited to six skips per hour, per station. The reason? The fine print on Myspace’s licenses requires them to limit how many songs you can skip at a given time. If you’d like to hear something new beyond the six skips, you can listen to a different station.

The only thing left to tinker with on the mobile app is the GIF tool, which is pretty cool. You can either hold down the Record button to capture a clip or tap to take a series of photos. After taking one photo, you will see a phantom image that will sort of help you plan what your GIF would look like.

Trippy selfie,

Trippy selfie. Check out the finished product.

After it’s done processing, you can cross-post your GIF to Facebook and Twitter. The same is true for posting photos and status updates.

Mobile vs. Web

My Myspace mobile app experience was pretty brief, so I decided to compare the functions I just tried out with the Web version. Here are some of the differences I observed:

On your profile page in the mobile app, you can edit your profile and cover photo … that’s it. In the Web version, you can do that and edit your short bio by easily clicking on the space you want to change.

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The search box on the mobile app for People only has account type, gender, and distance. The Web version included zip code and music interest, making the connection discovery a little more precise.

On the Web version, you can hover over the Connect icon on other people’s profiles to view more options – you can connect, share, block, report, and view the percentage of your affinity with the person. On the mobile app, you can only connect or message the user.

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The biggest limitation by far is in the Discover feature, which can easily be the defining factor of your joining Myspace. On the mobile app, you can only discover people and radio stations. On the Web version, you can access Featured content like Artist of the Day, One to Watch, or Morning Mix, which makes it easier for indecisive users to get started. On top of being able to discover people and radio stations, you can also check out on-demand songs, albums, and artists that have received the highest rotation on the site. You can also check out mixes and videos. All of these things are currently unavailable on the mobile app.

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Can the Myspace app hold its own against Spotify and Pandora?

Having the Myspace mobile app is convenient for anyone who prefers using portable devices to listen to music, but to be able to compete with other music services like Spotify and Pandora, it needs a lot more work. Right now artist radio stations and genres are quite limited, so it only follows that music discovery and curation is also not cutting it. Searching for artist profiles won’t always lead you to their personalized station. Why is that? According to the Myspace website, you can only get a personalized Myspace radio station if you’re an active listener – you need to connect to more songs and listen to more music. You’ll know if a person has their own radio station if you see an orange play button on top of their profile. This is complicated compared to Spotify or Pandora, where a simple search for a track, album, or artist will immediately yield you a song, station, or playlist to check out.

The Pandora and Spotify apps are almost exactly like their Web versions, so anyone who has used them in a browser won’t be left wanting more. The features the Myspace app offer are currently not enough to make me give up my accounts on other music services, but I like it enough to keep it installed – after all, it’s only been a few days since the last update. The tile view of photos is mesmerizing and the idea of connecting to anything­ – may it be a person, a song, a GIF post – are a great start for the social network’s comeback, and do give it an interesting edge over competitors. As long as the Myspace team keeps working on streamlining their music experience by pushing more Web functions into their app, the better it will get.

The Myspace iOS app is currently available in the App Store, while an Android version is in the works. You can also check out a mobile-optimized version of the site.

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