There are dozens of different apps around right now that let you stream your favourite music over the Internet. Reliance Jio joins the fray with JioBeats - its music streaming application for users with a Reliance Jio SIM. This is just one of the many services that you're getting for free as a part of Reliance Jio's preview offer.
Apart from JioBeats, you also have JioMags and JioXpressNews, which are magazines and news updates, respectively, JioPlay, which gives you live TV over 4G, and JioOnDemand, Reliance Jio's video on demand service. With the commerial launch of Reliance Jio still to come, there is no clarity on the 4G tarriffs users will have to pay, and we don't know whether or not these entertainment services will continue to be free either. However, for now, as long as you have a Reliance Jio SIM you can access these different platforms.
We've been using JioBeats for a while now to listen to music, and overall, there's a lot to like. The moment you start the app, it checks to see if you're logged in on another Jio app - therefore we didn't have to enter our username or password a second time. However, the fact that this is a work in progress starts to show from the very second screen - you're asked to select your preferred language, which can be modified later, but there is nothing at all to choose on the screen. When you go into the language settings though, you can see the full list, which shows Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telegu, Malayalam, Bengali, and Punjabi.
That apart, the app looks appealing at first glance. There are large cards for each song/ album, and you can tap on a track from the main screen to start playing immediately. Next to each song, there's a a hamburger menu button (the three dots in a vertical line) that gives you more options - you can play a song, add it to be the next song, add it to the end of the queue, or add it to the playlist. You can also swipe on the menu to show four more options - download, go to album, favourite, and song info. If you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, you'll get the song's title card, which allows some of these same features, so overall, it looks good.
Having useful options like download hidden behind a swipe does get in the way of usability a little however. In the main menu, there's a Radio button that allows you to choose from selections such as golden classics, travel, meditation and so on - useful if you don't have a specific track in mind. A feature that we've seen in a lot of other applications in this category which is missing with JioBeats is creating a playlist based on the track that's currently playing. Here, you either know what you want to listen to, and create your own playlist; or you go to the radio side of things.
In contrast, apps such as Saavn or Gaana give you much more control over the playlist, which makes a lot of sense from a user's perspective. You an favourite songs even when they're playing in radio mode, but there's no apparent way to download them or add them to your own playlist - these are small issues, but can be frustrating when you're actually using the app.
The recomendations section does not seem to be based on the music you're listening to, at least not that we could tell, while the My Music section shows you the songs and albums you've favourited, along with your playlists, and songs you've recently heard. It's pretty basic, but there's no issue with it.
Strangely enough, although the language settings make no mention of it, there are a number of English songs on JioBeats - with a wide range, from Katy Perry to the Beatles, to Kanye West, to the Suicide Squad OST. This is all just buried in the interface and unless you're actively looking for these tracks you're likely to miss them altogether.
In terms of content, there's a lot to like about the app - Jio hasn't announced a comprehensive list of the number of tracks on the service, however we found a lot of popular music, and the classic content - particularly for Hindi music, was quite thorough. The real issue with JioBeats is surfacing content, along with strange design quirks, such as Radio mode limiting your options as a user, and downloads being hidden behind two taps.
This is a problem we experienced in our review of JioOnDemand as well - the layout and organisation of content is a real issue that needs to be improved upon by Reliance Jio. The apps are very much a work in progress, but they're being offered fully free as is the network, so it's hard to see people being dissatisfied with the experience of using the app at present. That aside, unless Reliance Jio JioBeats can improve the user experience issues we detailed above, it's going to become an issue after the commercial launch, as competing products definitely offer a better experience.