Xbox Music and Smart Glass – need to know

Microsoft’s killer unlimited music streaming service explained, plus the skinny on Smart Glass

Microsoft’s latest Xbox 360 update unleashes a brace of killer additions to the console’s already formidable array of talents: Xbox Music and Smart Glass. But what exactly do they offer? We delve in to keep you up to speed.

Xbox Music is fairly similar to Spotify in that it offers a choice between a free, ad-supported streaming service and a premium variant with no limits and offline play.

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The free version doesn’t limit the number of times you can listen to a particular song as Spotify does – in fact it only limits the number of hours you can use it for, and that’s only after you’ve been using it for six months.

The premium version is a pound cheaper than Spotify at £8.99 a month, and offers a similar combination of unlimited ad-free listening and offline play. You can sync songs to up to five authorised devices, resetting the authorisations once per month. So if you were selling your phone, you could de-authorise it and any synced tracks will be deleted.

You’ll also be able to buy music as albums or individually, a bit like with the iTunes Store. There are over 30 million songs available.

More after the break...

Xbox Music – the basics

It also features a recommendation engine. It scans your existing library and takes note of what you’ve been listening to and makes recommendations for similar artists – similar to what the Xbox Video Service does with your Netflix and Lovefilm accounts. Hopefully this works a little better than Spotify’s equivalent.

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There’s also Smart DJ, which provides an instant playlist of music you might like. Again, nothing we haven’t seen before with the likes of Last.fm or iTunes’ Genius – so whether it’s a success depends on how well it’s implemented.

A very exciting addition to the Xbox 360’s skill tree, Smart Glass allows you to connect any Windows 8 device (phone, tablet, desktop or laptop) to your Xbox in order to add extra functionality. It’s a little like the Wii U’s controller in that respect, so it’s able to act as an extra display in games. With Forza Horizon, for example, you can track your car via GPS as you race.

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It’s not just for games though: with music playback, you’ll be able to pull up artist bios and similar artists through Smart Glass as music plays through the Xbox. You can also come home playing a song on your Smart Glass phone and seamlessly “move” it onto your Xbox to continue listening there.

With movies, Smart Glass gives you extra info on actors and the film itself, presenting stuff in real time as the film progresses. And as with music, you can start a film on one device and continue from where you left on the other.

Smart Glass will also be available as an iOS and Android app.

Xbox Music and Smart Glass will launch on 26 October, the same day as Windows 8.

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