MTN recently launched a music streaming product called MusicTime which lets subscribers buy time instead of data for streaming.
To access the service, subscribers can buy bundles of either R5 for 120 minutes, or R10 for 300 minutes. The bundles include 500MB and 1GB of data respectively, which may only be used for streaming from MusicTime or Simfy Africa.
This data is more than enough to cover the streaming time purchased.
For the purpose of this review, we used the MusicTime app on Android. We also bought a new MTN SIM to test the 60 minutes of free access subscribers are given without any airtime or data loaded.
Registration and free data
When our new SIM was registered, we were able to sign up for MusicTime using its number.
After providing your MTN number, you are sent an SMS with a four-digit PIN which registers you, and logs you into MusicTime.
Your account is linked to your cellphone number, and there is currently no way to transfer your playlist or other information if you change numbers.
Once you are logged in, the free 60 minutes of streaming time is available.
Our MTN account was also credited with 500MB of data which could only be used by MusicTime.
The app works well overall and prominently displays your remaining streaming time at the top.
It also offers screens with recommended and trending music, and the ability to search for songs, artists, and albums. You can also add music to a list of favourites and create your own playlists.
There are still some niggles with the design of the app, however.
For one, the timer overlaps submenus which are displayed in the Trending and Genres sections, making it impossible to tap on the right-most submenu options.
The search function is also not fully optimised.
Instead of just searching through track names when you specify that you want to search by song, the app returns artist names.
As with any streaming service, not all the songs or artists you are looking for will be on the platform.
From the small sample we took, MusicTime has a good mix of old and new music – ranging from The Beatles and Queen to Black Coffee and Imagine Dragons.
It even had some more obscure bands like Wardruna, while others like ANKOR were not available on MusicTime.
There are also occasionally issues with licensing. On the day we tested, Mariah Carey tracks listed in MusicTime’s “Trending” section could not be played – and displayed the following error message:
The playback license for this song has been changed and it cannot be played on MusicTime! anymore.
This does sometimes happen on music streaming services, and often the licensing issue is resolved and access to the songs restored.
Older albums from Mariah Carey remained available on the service.
Timer and offline mode
As indicated in MTN’s original announcement of MusicTime, when you start listening to a song a timer in the app starts counting down.
Tapping on the timer reveals a button to a menu where you can then top up your MusicTime package.
We also tested the app’s offline mode, which lets you download tracks for listening when you don’t have an Internet connection.
The MusicTime-only data that is included with the streaming time bundles may be used to download these tracks. Listening to the songs you’ve downloaded then causes the timer to tick down.
As mentioned in our analysis of the pricing of MusicTime, it can be a cost-effective option for a specific type of subscriber – people who don’t have access to cheap or free Wi-Fi to download or stream songs.
In other circumstances, services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Music will be the better option.
Spotify has a free tier and offers a better selection of curated playlists, along with a personalised weekly Discover playlist that suggests new music for you to listen to.
Google Music offers the ability to upload songs to cloud storage, from where you can listen to them on any supported device.
Apple Music offers great integration with the rest of the Apple ecosystem, and a discounted student plan. Apple also offers a combination of cloud services that lets you access your music collection remotely.